Is Hypnosis Self-evident? A Concise Philosophical Inquiry

You know, the asterisks are footnotes; click on them at your own (aster-)risk.

I am conscious that this essay can be a bit dry at times, and for that I apologise; I promise to keep it as wet as possible, but that can be difficult with the kind of weather we’ve been having these days.  Anyway, here’s the essay:

A Framework

Psychology is a wonderful field but this post will be approaching the phenomenon of hypnosis from a philosophical perspective.  Therefore, while the empirical discoveries made by psychologist are relevant in their abilities to strengthen or weaken the postulates and theories we here formulate—helping us observe and understand the way these principles are realised in the empirical world—they will not be a part of the purely philosophical and normative core of this discussion, which they will serve merely as a guide.  Therefore, when we begin our argument with the most logical step—that of defining the term, ‘hypnosis’—we will make an appeal, strange as it may seem, to normative principle.  The aberrational feature of this proceeding is, of course, the nature of the term we are defining; it is perfectly customary to define a mere word from normative principle—we simply define it as we please and as is fitting to the argument—but we are here defining an empirical process, something that takes place in one particular manner and not another, and therefore, our definition must not be designed merely as to function in the argument, but as to be a proper description of a preexisting empirical and normative actuality.  Therefore, our process shall likewise be aberrational.  We must add an alternative initial step to proceed that of defining this essential term that is the very subject of our argument, a step from which the definition may be derived as a definitive description of a preexisting fact.

Notice that I have described the phenomenon of hypnosis as a ‘preexisting empirical and normative actuality’.  It should seem perfectly natural that hypnosis is something empirical, but perhaps what is less obvious is that it is normative.  To understand why this is, we must understand the nature of that which is normative, of a priori knowledge.  When I ask the question ‘Is hypnosis self-evident?’ I am asking, in more specific terms, whether it is an apriorism, something that may be known without empirical observation.  The quality to which such an inquiry is referring—that is, apriority—is clearly and fully described by the etymology of the language I have used: the latin a priori literally means, ‘from that which is previous’.  Hence when we classify knowledge as a priori, we are saying that it is known from that which precedes rather than that which follows; it is derived from the principle that causes, and therefore precedes, the phenomenon and not from the result of that principle, the phenomenon that follows.  That hypnosis may be of such a nature, that it may be, as it were, a normative principle deducible a priori, follows easily from empirical observation.

Turning to our guide, the field of psychology, we can observe that hypnosis is almost certainly a cognitive process—it is something made possible only by the inherent nature of the mind.  This is because psychologists tell us that people, hypnotised or not, act the way they do as a result of the functioning of their minds.  Therefore, that which precedes the empirical phenomenon of hypnosis, that which is a priori to the way hypnotised people act in the physical world, is something like any other normative reality; it is an actuality or principle that exists, just like math or logic or any other form of reason, purely in the nonphysical realm of the human mind—it is inherent in the nature of human thought, and therefore, can be demonstrated a priori, using only the fundamental axioms that are necessarily and universally self-evident to all of the sane, human populous.*  However, this is a psychologist’s answer to the question.  We shall use it as a guide, cordially thanking the field of psychology for the insight it offers us in defining our task, and then turning, philosophically, to the actual derivation of such a principle.  Because psychology evidences that there must exist a self-evident normative principle that explains hypnosis, it is necessarily self-evident that hypnosis is possible, but to demonstrate this philosophically, our only option is to provide such a principle.  Psychology has served merely to specify the object of our first philosophical inquiry: what is the principle of hypnosis?

The Principiative Metaphor of Time

Notice I have preferred the slightly more awkward wording, ‘what is the principle of hypnosis’ to ‘what is the principle responsible for hypnosis’.  This is because hypnosis is to be considered one and the same thing as the principle that causes it.  The psychologists arguments about whether or in what way hypnosis may be called ‘a state of consciousness’ fill more pages than even I care to read.  Instead, we must consider the significance of such an issue only as it relates to our argument at present.  Hypnosis, regardless of whether it involves altered consciousness, is a way people think.  So philosophically, it is something that happens in the nonphysical realm.  But whenever we describe something ‘happening’ in the nonphysical realm, we do so metaphorically.  For example, we may say that a math problem ‘is calculated’ in the nonphysical, and this implies that there is such a thing as a nonphysical action (what I have called ‘an act of reason’ in another essay), but such a concept is merely a metaphorical aid to help us understand what are actually stagnant principles.  The sum of two numbers might ‘be calculated’, in a sense, but in reality, that summation, that whole math problem, including the fact of its existence and of its answer, is a stagnant principle—that two plus two equals four is merely a normative principle, not an event.  In the same way, there is a sense in which ‘things happen’ in a nonphysical realm, a human mind, in such a way that, after the elapse of a few minutes, the person to whom that mind belongs may be described as ‘hypnotised’, but in truth, those ‘normative occurrences’ are really just components of a stagnant normative principle.  The reason this metaphor of time is convenient is that such normative principles may only be empirically realised with results that occur overtime, and therefore, it is easiest to understand the actual a priori principles as chronological.  For example, in order to realise the stagnant principle that two plus two equals four, we must, in the empirical world, have two of something at one point in time, and then add another two at a later point, at which later point in time, we will observe ourselves to have four.  Likewise, in the empirical world, the stagnant principle that is hypnosis takes time to realise—hypnotic induction is subject to chronology.  We will call this concept ‘the principiative metaphor of time’, for easy reference later—and also because it is important to always have cool names for stuff when writing philosophy.

So to derive this normative principle, and in so doing, to both define hypnosis and confirm that hypnosis is self-evident, we will need to ask a more general question: how is a human mind, a nonphysical realm structured?  Recall this jargon from other random posts: The Nonphysical Realm is the conceptual realm that follows the laws of logic in the same way that the physical realm follows the laws of physics, and the latter term, a nonphysical realm, refers to any realisation of such, any realm in which nonphysical objects that obey the laws of logic may exist.  Hence, the most obvious example of a nonphysical realm is a human mind.

How is a nonphysical realm Structured?

In “The Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity” (ALUC), it was demonstrated that The Nonphysical Realm consists of metaphorical levels or scopes that exist inside one another—these are the levels of recursion in the self-referential system of logic (‘self-referential’ because ‘logic’ is defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with itself’).  In that post, I demonstrated that these levels are ‘congruent’ to one another.  This is because, as I explained in that post, each of the levels is defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with the level in which it is contained’, and so if A is contained inside of B and B inside of C, then there is a congruity between the definitions of level A and level B—because both A and B are contained in C, they are each defined as ‘that which is noncontradictory with level C’, but A is still different from B because it is contained inside of C only through the transitive property as applied to its being inside B.  This is what is meant by ‘congruent’, and is best imagined, as the jargon implies, geometrically.

So The Nonphysical Realm can be thought of as a formal-logic proof.  It begins with a primal premise, or primal cause, which is its first level and is necessarily infinite.*  To this premise is applied the law of noncontradiction, and an infinite recursive system follows.  Liken it to holding two mirrors to face one another: the first mirror is the primal premise, the Absolute Truth; when the definition of reality—’that which is noncontradictory with the primal premise’—is applied, it is like holding another mirror up to the absolute truth to reflect it (because the only thing noncontradictory with an infinite nonphysical construct is the construct itself); what follows is an infinite recursive system, of which each level reflects its apriorism—the thing that precedes it and in which it is contained—according to the law of noncontradiction.

Hence, the answer to our question, ‘how is a nonphysical realm structured?’, is that it is composed of recursive levels that are each noncontradictory with their apriorism, and that there exists, at the root of it all, a primal premise upon which the whole system is based.  Of this structure we will make two relevant observations: (1) Each level has a successively lesser impact on the system than the last, and therefore, the closer a level is to the primal premise, the more it is ‘in the heart of the system’, so that if such a level were somehow altered, it would have a greater impact on the system as a whole than would the alteration of a following level.  This makes the realm a chaotic system by definition.  (2) Although the whole realm is required to follow the laws of logic which are, in summation, the law of noncontradiction, this does not necessitate that no two contradictory declaratives exist within (again, refer to the ALUC for this jargon, or click this footnote: *).  Contradictions may arise as long as they cancel out. Two contradictory declaratives may exist in a nonphysical realm if and only if they are premised by ‘the contradiction declarative’, the declarative which, in the simplest case, merely state that what follows is a contradiction.  So if level A is contained in, and therefore premised by, level B, then A may contain contradictory declaratives Y and Z only if level B contains the contradiction declarative, which states, ‘Y and Z are contradictory, and therefore, A is false’.  To this second observation, we must also add the fact that even if A is declared false by its apriorism, it still may have levels that follow it, even though all such levels will be declared false by B according to the transitive property.  Such levels are analogous, in some respects, to imaginary numbers.  The details of how this works with the recursive model will be more fully explicated in the section of this post titled, ‘Did you notice this is a fractal?’.  But it is prudent to, at this point, make clear at least one complexity:

There may have been some confusion hitherto about the seemingly interchangeable usage of the concepts of ‘declaratives’ and ‘levels’ as well as their respective concepts of ‘following one another’ and ‘being contained within one another’.  These concepts have been used interchangeable because they are merely different ways of describing the same thing.  A declarative follows from an apriorism when its opposite is in contradiction with the former.  For example, “this blog is silly” follows from “all blogs are silly” because its opposite would contradict its apriorism—”this blog is not silly” contradicts “all blogs are silly”.  But there is also a sense in which the declarative that follows is contained inside of its apriorism.  “All blogs are silly” contains the fact of this blog’s own silliness.  In fact, we could roughly conceive of the single declarative “all blogs are silly” as an entire fractal construct, a ‘level’ in a nonphysical system.  Inside of such a level are the facts that each individual blog is silly, and these declaratives together make up exactly what we mean by ‘silly’, they describe the manner in which “all blogs are silly”.  Hence, contained inside of the level “all blogs are silly” is the level “this blog is silly” in which level is contained all the facts about this blog that makes it silly, which together constitute the manner in which it is silly and make up the exact fact of its silliness.

The Consequence of the Principiative Metaphor of Time

I like the label ‘principiative metaphor of time‘, because it expresses the way the metaphor works.  Just as a principle principiates a consequence, the fact of the existence of the empirical realm principiates the metaphor of time when describing principles.  If that sentence was confusing and not helpful, then don’t worry about it.

Anyway.  As I have already alluded to, the human mind is necessarily a nonphysical realm.  This is because we derive the components of a nonphysical realm directly from it.  Again those components are two: (1) a nonphysical realm is conceptual, and (2) is governed by the laws of logic.  As we shall see in the following section, both of these things are descriptions of the human mind.

If we apply the principiative metaphor of time to a nonphysical realm of a human mind, we arrive at human action.  The principles of the mind are expressed overtime through the actions of a person.  And if we call the fundamental entity responsible for all of a persons actions ‘the will’, then the human will is the primal premise of the nonphysical system that is the human mind (of course, this so-called ‘primal premise’ is only really a primal premise of that particular nonphysical system; in the context of The Nonphysical Realm, it is actually a consequence of The Primal Premise).  In other words, a human will is a principle, from which follow an infinite number of congruent levels, all of which make up the human mind and are expressed in the empirical world through human action over time.

Is the mind a nonphysical realm?

It is likely already evident that the significance of our entire argument is determined by our answer to this question alone.  Indeed, for this reason we must be extremely attentive to the way in which we answer it, but we must also realise that the matter is not so simple as a plain yes or no.  Our argument describes the way in which a nonphysical realm necessarily behaves, and in this section, we will argue the extent to which or circumstances under which the human mind resembles a nonphysical realm.  For the sake of simplicity, we have, hitherto, supposed that the human mind were entirely and always a nonphysical realm, but it is now appropriate to discuss the matter.

Of course, we needn’t argue that a human mind is a conceptual realm, for that is merely a matter of definition: the word ‘conceive’ will, in our jargon, mean ‘that which the human mind does’.  The real question is whether the mind is logical—whether it is noncontradictory.  The answer to this question is to be found among the entailments of its identity as a conceptual realm—isn’t that cute.

Hitherto, we have claimed, in The ALUC, that a conceptual realm is not subject to the law of noncontradiction.  This is only partly true.  The problem with such an idea is that it conflicts with the fact that all of reality is noncontradictory.  Elsewhere, we have made an argument for this point: the reason that noncontradiction describes the law of logic is that we, as humans, consider it self-evident that reality itself is noncontradictory, such that if one were given a set of true premises, and were to manipulate them with logical methods in order to arrive at a conclusion whose opposite would contradict those premises, he or she would have arrived at something that is necessarily true.  Hence, in reality, contradiction is impossible.

This posits a problem to the notion of a ‘conceptual’ realm which is not subject to logic: if contradiction is universally impossible, then it must also be normatively impossible.  Certainly, two things that contradict can be conceived of independently, and the notion of their coexistence may also be conceived, but the actual details of how they would so exist, the finer fractal levels of a reality that includes their coexistence, cannot.  For example: one can conceive of a brown dog that is white, but only in a limited sense.  It is possible to conceive of a brown dog, and it is also possible to conceive of a white dog, and even the notion of both conflicting descriptions being applied to the same dog is conceivable.  But we cannot imagine the finer details of how such a dog would exist; we cannot picture it, we cannot describe it biologically, nor conceive of any finer detail to its existence than the mere fact that it exists.  Of course, we could make up further things about it, but we cannot conceive of anything that would follow from its existence.  One might suppose that this would be a mere matter of conceiving of the details of a brown dog’s existence, and then those of a white dog, and combining the sets; however, such a process merely delays the problem, as the two sets would contain contradictions that could not be reconciled any more than this first premise—further, none of the declaratives in those sets would literally follow from the contradictory premise; that is, they would not follow from the fact of the dog’s simultaneous brownness and whiteness.  (A side note for those of you who think it’s clever: we’re discussing a dog that is fully brown and also fully white; a spotted dog doesn’t bear relevance.)

For this reason, there is no such thing as a realm that literally fits the description we have applied to the conceptual realm.  However, a conceptual realm can be ‘created’ within a normative one simply by premising it with a contradiction declarative.  Such a realm exists in the same way that imaginary numbers exist in higher mathematics: the number i represents an impossibility, and therefore, is not a real number, but it allows us to perform operations with real numbers that could otherwise not be achieved.  Hence, real conclusions follow from an imaginary premise.  In the same way, if we discuss it in terms of the mathematical field of formal logic, ‘the conceptual’ is not a real realm, but nonetheless may result in real conclusions, namely, the same union set previously alluded to: the union of all that follows from a brown dog and all that follows from a white dog.  Again the analogue of imaginary numbers is convenient in that in both fields–algebra and formal logic–imaginary concepts are responsible for one problem having multiple answers.

What about when weird stuff happens?

So we have a primal premise, a stagnant principle, the human will, governing all sorts of other stagnant principles, which are noncontradictory all the time except for when they aren’t.  That all seems fine.  But what about when weird stuff happens?  What if a declarative ‘entered’ the mind* that presented a contradiction?  Suppose it were a declarative that stated, “all of what follows needn’t be noncontradictory with the will”.  Such a declarative would be a species of contradiction declarative, and even as such it would still exhibit a whole branch of consequences, resulting levels.

In order for such a ‘normative phenomenon’ to occur, the will would have to ‘agree to’, i.e. be in noncontradiction with, the existence of such a declarative.  But then what would happen?  Would the actions follow from the principles in accordance with the principiative metaphor of time?  In what sense does the declarative ‘cancel out’ what follows?  Every declarative inside the nonphysical system of the mind is paired with an unwritten declarative that states that it is in noncontradiction with the primal premise (this is much like the unwritten coefficient of ‘one’ that is in front of all mathematical expressions).  It is this unwritten declarative that ‘relates’ the declarative to which it refers to the primal premise.  We might think of these unwritten declaratives as creating a kind of ‘table of contents’ for the nonphysical system.  But when a declarative is added that allows that which follows it to contradict the primal premise, it effectively removes from the table of contents all that follows and cancels out the respective unwritten declaratives, but not the corresponding ones to which they were referring.

The table of contents is what must be noncontradictory with itself; it’s the metaphor by which we imagine the law of noncontradiction being applied.  Even this step—of applying the rule of noncontradiction—must occur independently and ‘chronologically’ according to the principiative metaphor of time.  Hence, there is, metaphorically, a list of all the declaratives contained in the system (or really, of all those which need to be noncontradictory with each other), and at every ‘CPU tick’, every tick of logic or step in the proof, the list is checked to ensure that every possible combination is noncontradictory.  In theory, the removed items would together form a whole other table of contents dissociated from the one containing the primal premise, because they still exist in a nonphysical realm and must therefore be noncontradictory with each other.  In a sense, they are still even linked to the primal premise via the contradiction declarative.  The contradiction declarative (the declarative that states, “all that follows needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise”) itself retains the unwritten declarative, remains on the table of contents, and must, therefore, be noncontradictory with the primal premise; so in this sense, the whole alternative table of contents is still, indirectly, governed by the primal premise.  The contradiction declarative is effectively an alternative primal premise, but one which follows from, and therefore must, in some way, resemble, the original primal premise.  To what extent that alternative must resemble the original depends on to what extent the original necessitates its own semblance.

Because the whole system is recursive, self-similar, even the primal premise alone can be thought of as an entire system of levels, with a table of contents and what have you.  And in such a system, certain things are necessarily the way they are, and others are flexible.  Each declarative has a series of others that follow it, but often, that series could potentially be an entirely different one.  For example, there might be a declarative A from which B follows (and a whole system of others follow B) or C follows (and, likewise, a whole system follows C), but either B or C are logically permissible, as neither is contradictory with A.  In the realisation of this system that is the primal premise, only one or the other will follow A, but this means that in the ‘alternative primal premise’, the contradiction declarative, the alternative option may be allowed to follow.  So, both the primal premise and the contradiction declarative will give rise to similar constructs, but not identical ones.  The commonality between the two will be, at a minimum, the declarative called the ‘primal premise’ when viewed from the infinitesimal degree of intricacy, as this is, itself, only a declarative, an infinitesimal assertion, and not also a whole self-similar system, a whole normative level.

If the facet of a human being that is aware of and forms opinions about all of his or her actions is called the ‘human consciousness’, than such is, in our metaphor, the ‘table of contents’.  The table of contents checks everything for noncontradiction—this is, on an infinitesimal level, what we mean when we say, ‘forms opinions’ (recall from other posts that emotions are fractal constructs of logic—with logic being noncontradiction).  So this alternative table of contents that is associated with the alternative primal premise is a dissociated consciousness.  The person is conscious of everything that follows the alternative primal premise, but only to the extent that such information, and its associated table of contents (its ‘consciousness’) is similar to what precedes it, which need only be as far as the infinitesimal link, the true primal premise, dictates.

In other words, to whatever extent the dissociated table of contents is the same as the original, i.e. possesses the same items, it is, to that extent, being check by the original.  If a person is aware of certain facts, and then he or she has a dissociated consciousness, which is also aware of certain facts, then the person will be aware of his or her dissociated consciousness to whatever extent the facts known by the two are common.

Did you notice that this is a fractal?

An easy thing to over look in these arguments—and such oversight often may cause a lot of confusion—is the fact that the nonphysical constructs we are dealing with have fractal structures.  This affects our understanding of what precedes in two ways: (1) It helps us describe exactly what we mean by ‘dissociated consciousness’.  The contradiction declarative, as we have already said, can be expressed as, “all that follows needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise”, but there are also certain implications in the way the declarative is formed such that a more full expression of the same might read, “all that follows [from this declarative] needn’t be in noncontradiction with the primal premise, [but must instead be evaluated against this declarative]”.  Such implications are made simply by using the word ‘follows’.  The fact that other declaratives follow from the contradiction declarative implies that they are premised by it, and therefore, observe certain demands it sets.  The way we have initially expressed the contradiction declarative is analogous to expressing the primal premise as, “this nonphysical system exists”.  Such is the essence of the primal premise, and from it follows everything else; however, contained within that single larger statement is a whole fractal construct which explicates the manner in which the system exists, and therefore, the exact manner in which the premise is intended.  Likewise, the contradiction declarative allows things to be dissociated from the primal premise only in a particular manner.  Contained within the single declarative is a whole system formed similarly to the primal premise—a system designed in such a way that the original primal premise allows for declaratives to follow from this alternative system just as if from itself.  In this way, what follows the contradiction declarative is—when we observe it from this finer scope—still in noncontradiction with the original primal premise, but only indirectly so.  The original premise allows for an alternative system to usurp its former sovereignty over the whole construct, but this is only made possible by that alternative system’s adherence to the demands of the original—if this were not so, we could not describe the mind as a rational realm.  Of course, the two tables of contents relate to each other in the same way, and this is what is meant by ‘dissociated consciousness’: the alternative consciousness is designed consciously.

(2)  It allows for a continuum to exist between this state of dissociated consciousness and normal consciousness.  What we have just described in the previous paragraph is really, in essence, no different from normal functioning.  We define ‘normal functioning’ as the relating of each declarative to its apriorism through noncontradiction.  (Normal functioning corresponds to ‘normal consciousness’ as does ‘dissociated functioning’ to dissociated consciousness—the former of each refers to the structure of declaratives and the latter to that of the table of contents.)  Hence, this ‘dissociated functioning’ we have described, is just a more complicated instance of normal functioning.  Each declarative is noncontradictory to its apriorism, but one of those declaratives is of such a peculiar kind that the system begins to converge around it in much the same way that it ordinarily did around the primal premise.  As we have acknowledged earlier, the entire nonphysical system is chaotic, each level bears a lesser influence on the whole system than what precedes it, and in this way, the primal premise bears the greatest gravity in determining the overall structure of the system.  However, each declarative bears a certain amount of such gravity, but in normal functioning, the exact magnitude of such is determined by how early the declarative occurs in the following of the primal premise, where as in dissociated functioning, a late declarative begins to develop a gravity disproportionate to its placement.  In this way, a continuum exist between the two states.  A declarative is only called a noncontradiction declarative when it passes a certain threshold, at which point its fractal structure is just so that it bears greater gravity than ought, but because the construct that a declarative represents is fractal, each point along the continuum, each magnitude of gravity, is possible.

Simple, not Minimalist

lucem at quoque noctem plus vel enim amo.

Upon moving into my residence hall here at the university last week, I encountered a bit of difficulty.  It seemed my plans were too complicated for the room.  The microwave plug didn’t fit into the power strip and this meant that the whole apparatus I had formed—with the printer on top of the microwave and the microwave on top of the refrigerator—had to be relocated to a place in the room that would better accommodate for all the electrical connections.  I had, from the start, opposed my bringing of so many appliances to school, but my parents insisted that I do so in order to make the place more comfortable and ‘home-like’.

After trying out a few different arrangements of the room, each one feeling more cramped than the last, I settled on stuffing all the appliances except the refrigerator into a small storage space in the upper part of the wardrobe and moving the furniture into the least confining arrangement possible.  When I was all done with this, I felt quite remarkably liberated; suddenly the little space, which had seemed very much to resemble a prison only moments ago, transformed itself into a rather pleasant study and dormitory.  Now I have a big beautiful desk basking in natural sunlight beside the window where I can lay out my orchestra scores to work (see figure 1).

I told my mum how I felt about this when I rang her up that evening.  She and I both agreed that if I felt more comfortable without all the clutter, I didn’t need to use it, seeing as comfort was the original purpose of the supplies.  As I write this, all of the mentioned supplies, along with several other items, are sitting in that storage place, waiting patiently to be brought home.  The new order of my room is by no means minimalistic—aside from the refrigerator I mentioned, I also have here a good number of my books and my unicycle—but it is simple.  That’s the beauty of it.

On the same day that I made these arrangements, I was thinking about economic styles of music, art, and writing.  Among the many examples of the aesthetic I had in mind were a couple of scenes in Shakespeare, that popped into my head, as well as the opening line of Milton’s famous epic, which reads:  “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree”.  Part of the brilliance of this line is how simply it conveys something so large and complicated.  Instead of droning on and on pedantically to lay out the details of a theological framework for the ‘fall of man’, Milton leans into the lexical and philosophical associations already built into the English language—perhaps placed their directly by the hand of God himself—in order to discuss not only the hamartiology of an ‘original sin’ or ‘total depravity’, nor the soteriology of ‘salvation’, but the entire human understanding of all the associated ideas, dreamings, and truths that have been passed down via the Indo-European language from before the time of the Romans to the present, now to be contained in the single English word ‘fruit’.

You may have already sensed this by now if you read this blog often, but I am, quite frankly, all about complexity.  I make nearly every form of art or study that I engage in as complicated as I possibly can.  But the reason things ought to be so complex, in my mind, is because that’s the only way they can become simple.  One of the greatest transformations that western languages have undergone over time is simplification.  Dead languages often have very complicated grammars, and it is through these original complex systems that modern languages have come to posses the power they hold today in their much simpler forms.  We might also note, however, the way this complexity supported something simpler even in the ancient languages themselves.  If this post were written in Ancient Greek or Latin, you would probably be finished reading it by now (assuming you were as fluent in one of those languages as you are in English).   Indeed, you would have probably finished reading a good while ago; the reason for this is that the more complicated grammars allowed for more economic communication—simpler sentences had more complicated meanings than in modern English.

I am not here by proposing that ‘less is more’.  That’s ridiculous!  Less is less.  But somehow the God of the universe has been able to communicate to humanity everything they need to know in order to be self-conscious and self-willing creatures, and if so much is possible, then is it not our duty, as artists, thinkers, and human beings, to at least try, by virtue of that very possibility, to stuff the entire human experience into something portable and sharable?

The beauty of fractals is that no matter how much or how little of their detail you can make out, they look similar and appear the same.

On Aesthetics and Existence

Suppose there were some sort of nonhuman, rational being wandering the earth and observing human life.  This nonhuman, we will call him a ‘metahuman’, has nothing in common with humanity except reason alone.  He doesn’t experience the same desires that we do, nor possess the same needs.  In fact, let us say that he is subject to no desires or needs whatsoever.  As he makes his way through our curious little planet, he encounters a good number of phenomena with which his rationality is perfectly reconciled.  By virtue of being rational, he understands that a being must act in promotion of its own sustainment; this is simply a manifestation of adherence to the core principle of rationality–noncontradiction.  And so it comes as no surprise to him that people eat food.  A quick explanation of the natural science behind the human anatomy allows him to understand this act as rational and noncontradictory to existence.  He is also at ease when he sees people working for money to buy that food, exercising to help maintain the body in other ways, and getting married to help maintain the population.  With all these things, I believe our metahumane friend would be quite satisfied.

There is, however, an aspect of the human experience that I suspect might not sit as well with him.  That aspect is human philocaly, the love of beauty.  Upon extended observation of human living, I believe he might find himself asking, “why do these creatures so fastidiously obsess themselves with matters of absolutely no relevance to their existence?”  “Why,” he might ask, “do the sit for long hours watching the sunrise?  why do they drive themselves mad over the colours of oils on canvases or arrangements of sounds over time?  The time they spend on these things could be better spent working for food, eating food, exercising, or reproducing.” It seems that art is a superfluous facet of human existence.

However, while such an observation might vex our metahuman, if he is capable of being vexed, I do not think that he should outright object to it.  There is, after all, nothing inherently self-contradictory about art.  Art is, by all means, rationally permissible, but what the metahuman would understand, and we must realise, is that, ostensibly, art is rationally unnecessary.

It seems that art neither opposes nor promotes human existence.  And for the metahuman, a being’s existence is the first step in a deductive proof that merits his or her actions.  By taking existence as a given, the metahuman can prove that a human being must eat and exercise and must not undergo self-imposed starvation or deprival of exercise because such do’s and don’t’s are rationally necessary.  All behaviour that a being exhibits is only made possible by his or her existence, and so, in order to be rationally sound, none of such behaviour may oppose that being’s existence, for to do so would be to create, as it were, a contradiction in the normative ‘proof of actions’.  In other words, there is a logical fallacy in a chain of reasoning that reads, “A exists, therefore A acts, therefore A does not exist”*.  Likewise, there are certain actions that a being must take in order to sustain existence, which may be called ‘rationally necessary’.  Obviously, to neglect to do such things is to passively oppose existence and to, therefore, once again create a logical fallacy.  Ergo, all rational beings are demanded, by their reason, to avoid actions that oppose their existence and execute those that promote it.

However, in a sense, art neither promotes nor opposes human existence.  No one has ever starved from musical malnourishment (though I have had nightmares …) nor died of prolonged exposure to oil paintings.  It seems then, at least prima facie, that art has no baring on the metahuman’s proof of actions.  Hence, how it should be handled in the formal proof becomes quite a difficult matter.  Occam’s Razor might suggest that we remove it by default, but this seems a mere ‘easy way out’ of a question that rests on empirical evidence which powerfully suggests alternatives. The very fact that humans do indeed partake in the enjoyment of art seems to suggest that Occam’s Razor cannot be here applicable for one of three reasons: (1) humanity is not rational after all, as demonstrated by her irrational aesthetic passions, (2) art is a necessary part of the proof of actions in some more nuanced way than we have yet understood, or (3) art is necessitated by something other than the ‘primal premise’ in the proof of actions.

(By ‘primal premise,’ I mean existence; the jargon is intended to portray the analogical link between this and the Primal Cause Argument for the existence of God.  It is supposed, under the Primal Cause Argument, that given the existence of the universe and humanity, within the context of causality, a ‘primal cause’ that came first and without a cause of its own is a metaphysical necessity.  Our currant discourse takes the existence of humanity as the ‘primal premise’ in a proof of actions that demonstrates the rational necessity of self-sustainment.  This link will be important later on.)

Of course the first of these three reasons is, in its present form, utterly absurd because it denies the existence of human reason, on which it is dependent, as evidenced by its classification as a ‘reason’.  However, we might refine it a bit to say that, while humanity is capable of being rational, art is an example of her departure from rationality, however exceptional such a behaviour might be for her.  But that is a rather lame explanation of art, especially considering the fact that this blog purposes to demonstrate that beauty is a fractal construct of reason.  Therefore, we will be finding that the better option is either two or three.

In order to consider the reason for human philocaly, we must begin by considering the reason for human philosophy˚.  As it turns out, human philosophy is indeed rationally necessary, however its necessity is less clearly linked to the ‘primal premise’.  If belief is–as many have considered it to be–the act of depending on a supposed truth, then human beings have no choice but to believe in some things and not in others.  By sitting here, typing this post, I am believing that my computer will not explode in my face and kill me.  I am counting on that fact.  If I were to believe that my computer is going to explode, then my act of writing this post would be irrational, as it would be opposing my existence.  Hence, in order to be a rational being, I must believe certain things and not others (which, in this case, means that, given my sitting here typing, I must believe that my computer will not explode and not that it will).  This is because the rationality of an act (i.e. its promotion and non-opposition of existence) is dependent on certain suppositions that surround the act–that is, we must ‘count on’ or ‘believe in’ certain supposed truths in order for the action, or more accurately, the intention behind the action, to be classifiable as an action (or intention) of self-sustainment.  But the only rational way I can arrive at a belief is by way of philosophy.  In other words, it is irrational to count on the veracity of a given supposition without reason to do so.  Hence, the existence of reason (which is simply a more specific facet of the ‘primal premise’) is self-sustained by philosophy.  And so, philosophy is rationally necessary.

Recall from the previous ALUC posts that art, the discourse of emotions, is really an extension of philosophy, the discourse of reason, in that emotions are fractal constructs of rational processes.  Therefore, it seems that art may be necessitated by the mere fact of philosophy’s necessity.  If we are required, by reason, to rationally deliberate truth in order to arrive at rational beliefs, then why would we not also be required to do the same emotionally?  Human engagement in art is, in this sense, simply a way of making use of all methods of discovering truth available to the human.

Now would be a good point in the essay to point out a flaw in our model of reason thus far; I think I’ll do just that: The average Christian or reasonable thinker reading this post has already been quite troubled by the whole idea of self-sustainment.  We Kantian moralists, who make up most of the world, like to think that morality is an extension of rationality, and as such, must be governed by the laws of reason.  Therefore, the idea that reason would incessantly demand our constant attendance to self-sustainment is troubling to the Christian who believes that self-sacrifice is the core principle of all morality.  Hence, it seems our model has been all too simple.

Allow me, therefore, to do a bit of remodelling.  In Computer Science (the science of programming computers) there are conceptual entities called “objects”.  An “object” is something that sits out somewhere in the computer’s memory and can be called to perform tasks or can be acted on by other objects.  The particular tasks that a given object might be able to perform are decided on by the programer, and the possibilities are nearly endless.  However, one task that an object can never perform is self-deletion.  This is because of the logical fallacy that we have been discussing; it simply doesn’t make logical sense for something to destroy itself, and computer science reflects this inescapable normative principle.  However, sometimes, as you might imagine, objects do in fact need to be deleted.  For this task, the system itself must be called.  In other words, to delete an object, we must act not within the object’s personal scope, but within a larger scope that contains the object, which is called the system in the case of computer science.

A very similar phenomenon occurs in life outside of computers.  Sometimes there comes a point when objects need to be deleted, persons need to die.  At such a time, the principle still holds that a moral agent cannot delete himself, but a larger scope must be called on for his deletion.  So far, we have discussed the proof of actions as a self-contained system of rationality—something that is demanded to be non-contradictory with itself.  But if reality is fractal, then this “larger scope” that we are calling on must actually be self-similar; it must be similar to the “proof of actions” construct which it contains.  Hence, the deletion of a person must be appealed to the primal premise not of a proof of actions contained within the person, but of such a proof contained only by the scope of reality itself.

If you’re wondering what such a primal premise could possibly be, recall the disgustingly long and tastelessly obtrusive parenthetical element above in which the link between a ‘primal premise’ and a ‘primal cause’ was alluded to.  Herein lies the point: if the self-similar construct that is reality contains moral agents with proofs of actions that are premised on the respective existences of those agents, then reality itself is a massive proof of actions that is premised on its own existence (and since its existence is premised on its primal cause, we may say that this is the primal premise of the universal proof of actions, and consequentially, is the universal analogue of a moral agent’s existence).  Hence, the first line of the universal proof of actions reads: “Reality is.”  And because reality is subject to logic, all following lines must be non-contradictory to the existence of reality—or more specifically, to the existence of the primal cause and its particular nature.

And so, we appeal to this universal proof of actions for the deletion of a person; however, even within this larger scope, the deletions of persons is irrational.  Because reality is fractal, the principle that a moral agent cannot be deleted (which originates within the scope of the agent himself as a principle of self-sustainment) is reconstructed in larger, congruent scopes by necessity, including the scope of reality itself.  So the fact that there come occasions when persons must be deleted poses a serious threat to the logical soundness of the universal system (reality).

However, notice the phrase “a person must be deleted”; this implies that the deletion of the person is logically necessary.  Hence, we have a contradiction.  The principle of non-deletion that is perpetuated up through the self-similar system demands that persons are never deleted, however, sometimes reality demands that they are (e.g. in the case of war).  This tells us that something went wrong earlier in the proof of actions; some phenomenon has opposed reality and defied logic.  We will explore the phenomenon in a later post.  At present, we must merely understand that there is a contradiction, and that the contradiction must be fixed.  Logic demands that something be done in the universal proof of actions in order to correct the error.

So allow me to present the contradiction clearly:  Two moral agents are placed on a metaphysical see-saw, but only one is allowed to step off, leaving the other to go hurling down through the endless abyss of nonexistence (that is, of death or whatever the particular situation calls for).  Each moral agent is demanded to preserve both himself (by his own proof of actions) and the other agent (by a congruent construct of the other agent’s proof of actions).  It’s quite a pickle.  The only rational solution is the beautiful mathematical principle of Substitution.  One of the agents must choose to substitute his own primal premise with that of the other agent; that is, he must value the other agent’s existence in place of his own.  People less esoteric and nerdy than myself call this “love”.

That is exactly what has happened in the case of the universal proof of actions.  As a consequence of some error, humanity got set on a chain of reasoning that leads directly to death, but because it is logically necessary for man to keep on existing, the Primal Cause himself made the Grand Substitution.  The existence of man was substituted for the existence of Reality, causing all the equations to boggle about as reality demanded its own destruction and the very principle that called  for the deletion to be made was set to be deleted, reversing the error and undefying logic.  All this, we know, must have happened for two reasons: (1) it is the only possible solution to the contradiction, and (2) it maintains self-similarity with other proofs of actions (e.g. when a man sacrifices his life for his country).

As a result of all this, Substitution has become a principle of logic.  It logically necessary (and therefore morally right) for persons to sacrifice themselves for others because Reality has sacrificed itself for them.  The principle of Substitution trickles down to latter iterations of the universal fractal in this way.  For that matter, I might point out that logic is simply defined by whatever the Primal Cause does.  In other words, self-sustainment is logically necessary because the Primal Cause exists and continues to exist, and self-sacrifice is logically necessary because the Primal Cause sacrifices itself; every action that the Primal Cause takes is imitated in every smaller scope of reality due to its self-similar structure—that’s what logic is.

So logic is defined by the actions of the Primal Cause.  This might leave us wondering: why does the Primal Cause act in the way it does?  Or to put it more bluntly, what defines the actions of the Primal Cause?  The only answer I have for this is “the Primal Will”.  The “Primal Will” is the end of the line in the determining of actions.  The Primal Cause does what it does simply because that’s the way things Absolutely are.  Christians and non-christians alike might find interesting what the Bible has to say about this.  In Revelations 4: 11, it say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive Glory and Honour and Power, because you created all things and through your will they exist and were created”.  Where I have translated “through your will,” the ancient Greek reads “διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου” which we might also translate “because of your pleasure”.  So in one sense, we understand that things are the way they are because they ought to be (because it’s God’s will), but in another sense, they’re just that way for the fun of it (because of God’s pleasure).  Either way, the verse contends that He is to receive glory and honour for this—God’s will or pleasure is absolutely Good.  However, what this means is that as intricate and difficult to decipher as reality is, the fractal is that way in part because that is how it ought to be, but also simply for the mere fun of it.  God choose to create, to love, and to die for that love for the sake of his good pleasure, his θέλημά.

Now that was a pretty long tangent.  Remember, this post is about philocaly.  And so I ask what is art if not the highest form of Substitution available to man?  Art is the surrendering of one’s self to beauty, the giving of one’s soul to all of humanity.  An artist is demanded to be courageous and bold; he must wildly surrender everything with which his creator has endowed him to the creation of something beautiful—a love letter to humanity.  When he performs this creative task, he is acting rationally and in congruity with his maker’s primal act of creation and self-sacrifice, which was conducted under the Καλός Θέλημά (Good Will or Beautiful Pleasure, Καλός being the word from whence we get ‘philocaly’ – the love of beauty; the love of good).

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* Obviously an application of the transitive property to this statement makes it read “A exists, therefore A does not exist,” which, needless to say, is utter nonsense.

˚Just when you thought those ivory towers couldn’t grow any higher and the thinkers inside them couldn’t become anymore distanced from the real world, the philosophers start philosophising about philosophy.

Ref #2: What’s a Fractal

Draw your own fractals with my fractal drawing software, TWM Fractals.  With the new “Animate” feature, you can watch as your fractals iterate before your very eyes!  (It’s quite entertaining.)  Click the link to download.  (It requires java JRE.  I’m not really sure which version, but as long as it’s not super old, it should work.)

In geometry, a fractal is the infinite iteration of a recursively defined figure.  That is, it is a figure whose sides are defined recursively and iterated to infinity.  A simple example of a fractal it Koch’s Snowflake .  Koch’s Snowflake is a geometric fractal based around an equilateral triangle.

The algorithm for turning such a triangle into a fractal is as follows:  subdivide each side into four equal parts such that, in the middle of each side, a triangle protrudes that is similar to the original, only missing one side. It will look like this:

Once this is completed, the figure is said to have undergone one iteration.  Now we repeat the process for each side, include those newly formed sides:


and so on to infinity…

Once the figure has been iterated to infinity, it is considered a fractal.  This means that every part of its perimeter has the exact same structure (while some parts are smaller and others larger).  Fractals are often considered to be fraction-dimensional figures.  This is because, in any integer dimension, an infinite sum of infinitesimal parts (that is, 0over0) is an integral, which always has a finite solution.  But in the case of a fractal, we have an infinite sum of infinitesimal parts (still 0over0) that has an infinite solution.  This means that the perimeter of Koch’s flake has an infinite length (as each iteration increases the length by a factor of 4/3).  This is because the order of infinity that describes the number of sides is higher than the order of inverse infinity that describes the length of each side.  It is often thought of as a paradox that a figure, such as a fractal, can have a finite area but infinite perimeter and an infinite perimeter made only of infinitesimals.