Stoics and Epicureans play Tennis


A bunch of sheep shearers abandon their sheep and turn to metaphysics. The CEO dreams of a tennis match between Epicureans and Stoics.

First Classness and Being Stoic

Why then do you strut before us as if you had swallowed a spit?
– My wish has always been that those who meet me should admire me, and those who follow me should exclaim, ‘Oh, the great philosopher.’ (Epictetus, 55-135 AD)

The shearing shed was alive with curiosity and excitement. Times had been tough and so the crew had given up the wool trade and had gone off trying their hand in markets more in tune with the twenty first century. Everyone was there, the Ringer, the Jackeroo, the Tracker, the Roustabout, the Sheila who did the books, and of course the CEO.

The CEO gave a short speech introducing the speaker and the overall direction of the company. The company was to go into the business of explaining reality. Apparently the question of what’s real and what is not was of growing concern among the general populace. The speaker was to be Jackeroo, who had been doing some background research on the problem.

Jackeroo started off awkwardly, “The problem is to find the underlying principle governing the universe.”

“What if there isn’t any underlying principle?” asked Ringer dryly.

“If there were no principle then the world would be in total chaos” answered Jackeroo

“To me, the world always looks to be in total chaos anyway,” piped in Roustabout.

Jackeroo was beginning to get mired down into technicalities before he had even started. In desperation to cover all angles Jackeroo blurted out, “The universe is organised on a principle which is not a principle,” and then added as a consolatory but desultory explanation, “It’s a principle, which negates itself.” A look of baffled glazed eyes flashed across faces of the audience.

Well that quietened every one down.” commented Ringer, “A principle that isn’t a principle but negates itself, eh? Well, good luck.”

Jackeroo took a deep breath and, reading from rough notes, launched into his monologue,

“We cannot make much headway without starting to come to grips with a very fundamental concept. Borrowing from Computer Science terminology, we call it First Classness. Glimpses of this concept can also be discerned in String Theory in the guise of some kind of ‘democratic principle.’ Of particular interest will be the notion of First Class systems and those systems which are not First Class, that is to say, systems based on Second Classness. There is no notion of Third or Fourth Classness. First Classness introduces a strictly binary notion; you either make it through the pearly gates of heaven or you don’t.

One system that doesn’t make it through the pearly gates is formal mathematics. Mathematics is fundamentally wallowing in hardwired, incurable Second Classness. This is due to the fact that the only candidates for being First Class entities in mathematics are the axioms. Everything else in any mathematical formalism is qualified and predicated by axioms and hence Second Class. This includes even the entities defined in the axioms as also any theorem which can be deduced from them. This absolutist, undemocratic structure banishes all those entities which are dominated by the emperor axioms to stagnate in a static, dead world of Second Classness. Mathematics is not based on First Classness. Mathematics is a Second Class system.”

At this point the CEO interrupted, “Well that sounds all fine and noble but where’s the business opportunity?”

Jackeroo, starting to get excited, and exclaimed, “There it is! Clearly mathematicians have been flooding the formalisation market with Second Class systems for years. Surely then, there must be some people out there that would snap at the chance to take possession of a totally pure First Class Formalisation System. When offered the choice between a Second Class banana and a First Class banana, which one would, you take? Cursory market research will show that most people will choose the First Class over the Second Class, even if only because it just sounds better”.

This small team of former farmhands were fast transforming themselves into entrepreneurial metaphysicians. They decided that there was a market for this first class product. But it is here that they met a snag. There was a market but they didn’t have a product. Presently the market was being flooded by a product based on Second Classness, notably mathematics and the mathematical sciences. Mathematics is fundamentally riddled through and through with Second Classness. What they needed to put on the market was a formalisation system based uniquely on First Classness. They needed something that was entirely the opposite to mathematics, something that didn’t rely on a priori assumptions like axioms and data and so forth, something that could be built from reason alone. Something like what Kant was talking about.

The CEO suddenly rose to his feet, almost delirious with excitement. “And so what we need is…” he yells, but doesn’t have time to finish the sentence as his voice is drowned out by an immense shout from the floor. “We need anti-mathematics!” everyone shouts in unison. And so it came to pass that the case for anti-mathematics was proved; by general acclaim. The shearing shed would never be the same.

The CEO was all fired up by the idea of launching his First Classness super charged anti-mathematics onto the world stage. As the excitement died down, the CEO turned to his Ringer, who was his acting CTO. He asked in a whisper, “What exactly is First Classness?” The Ringer shrugged his shoulders, admitting that he had no idea but maybe the Rouseabout might know as he seemed to know a bit about everything.

In the weeks and months that followed, the CEO asked many wise and learned people the same question. Each time he got the same negative response. The only remotely promising response was from an aging computer scientist who said that First Classness was Good. His eyes glazed and he then entered into an explanation which was totally incomprehensible.

Finally, in desperation, he decided to pose the question to a mysterious Oracle who happened to be passing through town at that time. The Oracle replied enigmatically, “You will find your answer by taking on the complexion of the dead.”

The CEO was rather shaken by this, but after some reflection, he decided that this meant he had to read about the ideas of dead people. He started off by reading about the ideas of very dead people. In fact, he started reading about the ideas of Zeno of Citium, born in 334 BC. Coincidentally, it appears that Zeno also had a similar experience with his Oracle. Zeno, of course, was the founder of Stoicism.

Hellenistic Tennis

After the life of Socrates, Hellenic philosophy started a process of splitting into two poles. The early signs of the process were already becoming apparent with the differences between Aristotle, and Plato his teacher. By the time it came down to the philosophies founded by Zeno of Citium and by Epicure, the separation was complete. The aim of philosophy was to resolve the central problem of man, notably how to achieve happiness. Unlike any of the world religions that came later, both philosophies addressed how to achieve happiness, not in the afterlife, but now in the present. Philosophy became the art of living happily. Both philosophies agreed on the aim but believed that the means to achieving this aim was located on different sides of the tennis court.

Let the game begin.

On the left side of the court are the Epicureans, inspired by the ancient philosopher Democritus. On the right side of the court are their arch enemies, the Stoics inspired by the ancient philosopher Heraclitus. It’s a familiar sight then, with the merry making atomists on one side and the brooding holistic thinkers on the other. In the middle, sitting in the umpire’s seat, are the Sceptics. The Sceptics in their attempt to be absolutely objective have suspended judgment and sit with their backs to the game.

Despite a verbal hand grenade being tossed over the net from time to time, play is slow. The object of the game is the pursuit of happiness.

Epicurean Tennis

The Epicureans have set up a dinner table on their side of the court and are enjoying themselves with pleasant chit chat, pleasant drink and pleasant food. Epicureans love bathing in pleasantness. All their friends are pleasant people who all behave pleasantly at all times. For them happiness is to enjoy oneself. Happiness is synonymous with pleasure. Pleasure however does not mean unrestrained hedonism as the excesses involved inevitably leads to unhappiness which is contradictory to the basic intent. As Epicure himself remarks, “It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not sexual lust, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life”.

The tension between the Epicureans and the Stoics on the other side is intense. However, despite the deep rivalry, the two schools share a lot in common. Both sides are dogmatic materialists in belief. Both sides are also in agreement that the fundamental aim in life is to live happily. Furthermore, they both unify and justify their doctrines by turning to the science and structure of nature and reality itself. It is at this point they part company. The Epicureans are atomists whilst the Stoics are monists.

Epicure was a great cosmological pastry cook. His strictly materialist creation was a recipe for responding to any question under the sun. The adherent, armed with such a world view, is thus free to lead a life unencumbered by doubt or fear arising from the metaphysical. The task was to be accomplished without recourse to the heavy hand of necessity, so popular in other brands of philosophy. His was to be a world of the laissez faire where even the gods went about their daily business without interfering with human affairs.

A perennial problem for materialists is how to allow a world which admits of beings which somehow behave in a way which is contrary to the absolute mechanical determinism of matter in motion. How can you have free will in such a world? Epicure came up with an innovative response, something that could be very useful on a tennis court moreover. He invented the Swerve. All bodies consisted of matter made up of atoms. The space in between bodies and atoms was filled with the void. Atoms moved about and interacted with each other in a very deterministic manner except now and then there was an exception to the rule. An atom would spontaneously make a tiny imperceptible swerve from its deterministic trajectory. This explains how the universe gradually micro swerved to its present state and the spontaneity of movement in animals and man.

It is interesting to note that Darwin’s theory of evolution introduces the Swerve into the reproductive process of living organisms. Each child organism may differ slightly from its parent or parents explained by a swerve arising from the latent indeterminacy involved in genetic coding arising from combinatorial variation and accidental mutation. Some swerves are successful and the organism lives on to reproduce. The unsuccessful swerves lead to failure of the organism to propagate. Evolution thus becomes the sum total of the successful swerves.

Some writers of recent times working under the banner of Atheism want to push this process further back to a time when the only matter that was, was dead matter. They postulate that somehow dead matter experienced swerves that lead it to leap the bridge from the dead to the living, from the inanimate to the animate. This is all part of the declared war with the stalwarts of Creationist Theory. The Creationists need God to create the world. Like Epicure, the new Atheism only needs the Swerve.

Swerve theories have taken different forms across the ages to express that allusive difference between strictly mechanical deterministic behaviour and the observed spontaneity of the animate. One non-materialist approach proposed by Bergson postulates an elan vital, an underlying “current of creative energy operating on matter directed to the production of free acts.” And so the Epicurean Swerve becomes powered by an elan vital. But, as Julian Huxley dryly remarks, the elan vital is about as illuminating as describing a locomotive as being powered by an elan locamotif.

Epicure’s cosmology starts off with a universe of atoms all moving vertically downwards in straight lines. The idea of the predominance of an absolute vertical up and down axis in the Cosmos might seem curious, but is easier to grapple with if one considers that the world may have been flatter in Epicure’s neighbourhood. His Swerve was necessary to explain how the predominately vertical state of affairs could possibly end up in the complex structured world around us. The world became the way it is by trillions upon trillions of micro swerving atoms. In addition, the Swerve was to be the genesis for explaining non-mechanistic animal and human behaviour. Nowadays modern science has replaced the indeterminacy immanent in the Epicure Swerve with the fundamental uncertainty which reigns in Quantum Physics. This is summed up in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, a fundamental tenant of Quantum Theory.

In the Uncertainty Principle we find the most fundamental expression of the Epicurean theory of the Swerve.

Stoic Tennis

While the Epicureans quietly party on the left side of the court, the Sceptics find their particular brand of happiness in their customary fashion by always sitting on the fence. In that way they experience the comforting satisfactory glow of never going down the wrong path, which is their way to a particular kind of happiness,

On the right side of the court we find an entirely different ambiance. Towards the far corner a Stoic called Leon has been captured by the enemy and is being tortured on the rack. The Torturer, a tattooed, seedy looking creature, leers down at Leon and taunts, “I bet you’re not feeling so good now.” “Perfectly good thank you,” replies Leon, “Quite happy.” “Happy?” exclaims the Torturer. “How can you be happy being tortured on the rack?” “I’m always happy as this must have been meant to be. Things might appear to be going badly for me, but that is only how it appears when, in reality, things are going perfectly well. Things couldn’t be better, in fact.” The Torturer was a bit taken aback and countered by boasting, ”You know, I can take your life on this rack.” “Yes, you can take my life,” declared Leon, “but you can’t take my soul: if taking my life profits you, then take it.” This was too much for the Torturer. He gave an almighty twist to the rack and watched to see how the Stoic reacted to real pain. Sweat broke out on the Leon’s brow as he quietly muttered between his teeth, “My friend…” “I’m not your friend, I’m your torturer!” came back the snarl. “I know” said the Stoic “but Dion, that person standing right behind you is my friend.” The Torturer spun around to come face to face with an Athenian soldier in the process of pulling out his sword. He gave a blood curdling scream and ran off.

Dion cut Leon loose from the rack, rubbed down his poor twisted limbs, and the two of them rambled off. “It was lucky that I just chanced to be passing by” commented Dion. “That was not chance.” replied Leon, “It was fated.” Leon was starting to clear his head and muttered, “What appears as chance is caused, but beyond our comprehension.”
They kept walking until they came to the home of Chrysippus where they stood, hesitating at the open front door. They could see Chrysippus in the kitchen inside, warming himself in front of the stove. Chrysippus beckoned to them “Come in; don’t be afraid: there are gods even here.” As they walked inside Chrysippus laughed out loud, “I’ve always wanted the chance to say that. Those were not my words but those of the ancient Heraclitus.”

They sat down at the table and Chrysippus served up a plate of dried figs, his favourite. They started talking and Dion was curious to know how the Stoics related to the gods. Chrysippus explained that men were on the same levels as the gods. There was no friend behind the scenes. Zeus was a friend to men, as men were friends to Zeus. Chrysippus then went on to explain the universe and how it was governed. Dion, who had always been curious about Stoicism, asked Chrysippus a question which had been bothering him for ages. “Chrysippus my dear friend,” asked Dion, “what is virtue.”

Chrysippus paused and said that virtue was the cornerstone of Stoic philosophy
and demanded careful explanation. He drew in a breath and started his small
lecture on the subject: “From Parmenides we learn that the only real truth is founded in
  that which exists in the eternal present. Nothing else exists, neither in the past nor in the future.
  Existence is limited to the pure Oneness of the present. Everything might appear to change,
  but that is only in appearance. In reality nothing changes. That is the truth.
  The ultimate knowledge is knowledge of this truth, according to Parmenides.
  Heraclitus taught that such knowledge could only be understood in terms of pairs
of opposites. He described the oneness of the world as ever-living fire saying:..

This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made. But it always was and will be: an ever-living fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.

The ever-living side of the world is Nature; the fire side of the world is Zeus, the only immortal of the gods. Zeus and Nature are two sides of the one reality, expressions of the masculine and the feminine which is the Gender Principle. The Gender Principle expresses the opposition between the singularity of subject – the masculine – and the expansiveness of what
  accompanies subject – Nature, the feminine.

Oppositions even have oppositions. In opposition to the Gender Principle is the opposition of the Active Principle and the Passive Principle. The Active Principle and the Passive Principle are the personal expressions of the masculine and the feminine principles. The masculine and the feminine principles are the impersonal expressions of the Active and Passive Principles. This is how everything can be expressed in terms of oppositions. Gender is impersonal Active-Passive and the Active-Passive is personal Gender. As every Stoic knows, these two oppositions explain the four letters.”
Dion interrupted, “Chrysippus, are these the four virtues?”

… (book extract)

The Hard Problem — also Freud and Jung Semiotics

Philosopher David Chalmers remarks that the confidence in the traditional scientific method “comes from the progress on the easy problems.” Over the past decade or so, Chalmers has argued that it is time to tackle what he famously calls the “Hard Problem”, notably to develop a rigorous, scientific theory of consciousness. Chalmers’ Hard Problem is Hard to tackle because its requirements are antithetical to the very essence of the scientific method. The objectivity of the scientific method demands that only the object data be under consideration. All reference and interactions with the knowing subject must be eliminated. Thus to turn the tables and make the knowing subject the object of scientific enquiry means that all data has disappeared. And thus the problem of knowing the subject, this entity without data, becomes indeed a very “Hard Problem”.

As we have sketched in this book, this kind of problem has a long history, going back to Aristotle who saw it as the problem of developing the First Science, which he called the First Philosophy. Kant raised the ante in his time, calling for a science that didn’t rely on any a priori experience. Kant called such a science, metaphysics. In modern times, we now see it presented as the challenge of understanding consciousness badged as the “Hard Problem”. Nothing has changed over the past few millennia; whether it is called metaphysics or the Hard Problem, the problem still remains distinctly difficult.

Chalmers’ Hard Problem nomenclature raises possible objections. The emphasis on consciousness, as the last man standing, implies that traditional science has victoriously swept all before it, conquering practically everything in its way and has finally come to the final and last frontier to be conquered. Charmers offers no critique of the scientific method except that when it comes to consciousness it doesn’t work. This ignores the many foundational present day crises that riddle present day traditional science. What is needed is not just a science of consciousness but the noble, unifying science that Aristotle and so many others since have called for.

Having said this, we have no fundamental disagreement with what Chalmers has been saying. He is just presenting the scenario in terms of the measured language of Analytic Philosophy. He has considered all of the armaments and munitions at our disposal, inspected the terrain and has reported back to base. Despite all the equipment we possess and may develop in the future, it appears starkly apparent that there is absolutely no way we can win the battle. Game over.

Chalmers’ message is clear. If you want to win the war, you will have to start from scratch. You need an entirely different scientific methodology.

This, of course, is precisely our message. In order to start getting traction we have illustrated our thinking by using the biological brain as a metaphor for the required epistemological framework to do the job, the epistemological brain. The traditional sciences are what we call the left side sciences and correspond to the left hemisphere of our epistemological brain: reductionist, analytic, abstract, and obsessed with raw data. To resolve the Hard Problem we need another kind of science, the unifying right side science, the one that mysteriously operates out of the right hemisphere of our conveniently confected epistemological brain. In employing this pseudo-biological terminology, we take the same convenient path as Chalmers and effectively rebadge the ancient metaphysics problem as an organisational problem of mind. One could be tempted to say that it is a brain problem but, other than sounding a bit crass, the epistemological brain we are constructing is more based on a metaphor than sticky grey matter.

Thus, to resolve Chalmers’ Hard Problem, we are faced with the challenge of developing the right side science. Using the biological brain as a metaphor, this requires understanding right side reasoning, a totally different kind of reasoning from left side reductionism.

We have a fair idea of how linear, reductionist left side reasoning works. The student can start off with elementary logic, truth tables, Venn diagrams and so on as an introduction to symbolic logic. The abstract exercise can be combined with practical applications, so that at least some semblance of contact with the real world is inferred. This is all part of the Easy Problem.

What is the corresponding right side way of reasoning? We have already provided a preliminary response to this question in previous sections. Right side reasoning works with oppositions. The only way to understand something is in opposition to something else. In left side reasoning, it suffices to give a label to something in order to get a conceptual handle on it. What’s more, as general linguist Ferdinand de Saussure pointed out, the label can be completely arbitrary. This is first order semantics in action; labelling technology. This does not work for right side reasoning. Arbitrary labelling is not allowed. Ferdinand de Saussure stayed clear of the Hard Problem and stayed at home on the left side, the easy side.

Unlike left side rationality, labels form an integral part of right side reasoning and do so in an incredible way. However, that most exciting and positively overwhelming part of the story must wait until the later part of this work.

For the moment, we must work in a label free world. Rather than say “Let A be such-and-such, consider A”, our first examples were based on oppositions of cardinality, the opposition between One and Many. This is not the most fundamental opposition. It is too simplistic. However, the One-Many opposition is useful for an introduction. We then introduced a second opposition, another version of the same One-Many opposition. The second opposition was opposed to the first. The first was assumed to apply spatially from left to right, the second from front to back, as shown in Figure 3.

Relativistic Relativity

Now here is the rub. Something has been cut into four with these left-right and front back cuts. However, what has been cut into four? Nothing is really being cut in this first application of the semiotic square. What is being established is simply a unique frame of reference from which to comprehend reality. We build this tennis court-like structure in the middle of the Cosmos and demand that the whole Cosmos gyrates around it. From this unique pedestal for viewing the world, we have a ready-made reference frame of what is left and right, as well as what is front and back. This is all set in the polarity convention shown in Figure 3. We have discovered the location and shape of the centre of the universe! In fact, it has the same shape as the centre of your universe.

Right side science must be simple and simplifying, whilst continuing to climb out of the trap of appearing simplistic. Granted, our square-shaped mind situated in the centre of the Cosmos might appear a little simplistic. However, the situation can be saved by this egotistical mind-sprite admitting that there might be other entities in the Cosmos that enjoy the same viewing rights as itself. In this less determined context, the centre of the Cosmos becomes not that entity but any entity whatsoever, the true centre of the universe. One might argue that maybe only one such entity has the necessary four-part brain to join in the fun. This would not be an impediment, provided the consciousness in question could imagine itself in the place of any one of the other mindless entities and would thus see that same thing as the mindless (that is, if it had a mind). However, even that requirement could be weakened because the single mind might lack the capability of imagining changing places with another. In that case, it would not matter, as long as the same result would have occurred if it had such a capability.

At this point, we pull the ripcord even though we have not finished the story. These little naïve adventures into right side reason can be like a voyage into insanity. The author thinks that such exercises may be beneficial for students as long as they do not rote learn anything. The benefit for the student is probably to wean them off a dependence on left side linear thinking and on to binomial thinking. It should be kept in mind that similar tortuous adventures can be entered into by, for example, simply explaining in words something like the clock paradox in the special theory of relativity. In applying the theory mathematically, the formal methodology works quite smoothly and effortlessly. Right side relativity, once endowed with its own formalism, a relativistic relativity rather than the classical, should also be smoother and effortless.

It is time to look at some more practical examples of semiotic wholes.

Semiotic Square of Freud

The intention here is to provide a gentle introduction to right side science via practical example of the semiotic square. The approach is informal and intuitive at this stage.The semiotic square is an informal way of understanding wholes. A whole is Totality looked at from a particular perspective. Any thinker contemplating reality in a fundamental, non-abstract way is lead to semiotic squares of some kind. We have already seen this with the case of Kiyosaki, the uneducated but “rich dad” who thought holistically about the rationale of generating cashflow. Kiyosaki thus sneaked into the ranks of the great philosopher’s like Hegel. In fact, these ranks are full of autonomous autodidacts like Kiyosaki. Unlike Kiyosaki, Hegel was highly educated, but both these figures shared one thing: an aversion for abstract thought. Abstract thinking is left side thinking. Both Hegel and the entrepreneurial Kiyosaki empha-sised right side thinking. They reasoned in terms of wholes. Wholes are not abstractions, as they include the subject. This is right side thinking. The abstract thinker gives way to the generic thinker, a much more powerful breed.

One can only think of the poor Bertrand Russel, one of the greatest analytic, left side thinkers trying to understand Hegel, a great right side thinker. Trying to understand the right side with left side thinking technology? The atomist trying to understand monism? That is really a Hard Problem, as Russell freely admitted.

With the exception of Kiyosaki’s quadrant, the semiotic square examples have so far been concerned with the rarefied environment of the highly non-qualified. Understanding entities, which are practically devoid of any qualifying specificity, presents quite a challenge. A practical path to understanding is via the theological interpretation. This has many advantages as the entities are often seen as divinities that naturally spring into life in one way or another. The figures may be adorned in myth and shrouded in icons, which can be confusing. At the same time, every myth, every icon is the product of various people’s deep intuitions and wisdom accumulated across the ages. The author believes that a desirable part of modern education should be to impart the skill of being able to read and interpret these icons, myths, legends and sacred texts. This is not to debunk them, but to revel in them. The necessary skills can come from even an elementary mastery of semiotic analysis of the kind presented here.

The whole examined in this section is more qualified than the theological variety. Instead of subject as the impersonal self, with all of its theological overtones, we are going to consider subject as personal self. We are going to consider the human mind from the perspective of psychology. What is the basic generic architecture of the psyche? Our response will be in the form of Freud’s semiotic square interpreted from a viewpoint somewhat like that of Freud’s student, Jung, Once again we will start from scratch.We start with the left right divide of reality as conceived by modern present day science. Modern science splits the Cosmos into two sides. On the left side can be found objects which are completely untainted by subjectivity of any kind. The Cosmos itself is sometimes referred to in hushed and hallowed tones as the Laboratory. In between the objectified objects on the left side and the other side of the laboratory is a glass wall. On the right side of the glass wall is the observing subject. This subject is not like any ordinary subject as he is the Supreme Scientist, beyond and above all other. The Scientist, sometimes represented iconically as being dressed in an impeccably white dustcoat, a sure sign of divine objectivity, is completely fair, dispassionate and unbiased in any way. This means that he is devoid of any determined viewpoint or favoured perspective. The Scientist is endowed with the unique ability of being able to see everything from literally nowhere. He has the God’s eye view. These characteristics form the essential ingredients for being the Supreme Scientist, Lord of the objective universe.

Ordinary, everyday, scientists that have to work for a living aspire to emulate the Supreme Scientist and obtain his God’s eye view. Frustratingly, they never quite achieve their objective. Some scientists are so impressed that they take on the Supreme Scientist as their personal god. Like George Berkeley, they believe that you cannot have a Spectacle without an omnipotent Spectator, and that even applies to the lonely tree on a hill spectacle. Other scientists are completely unaware or refuse to embrace the existence of any scientist clever than themselves. These are the atheists who spend all their time on the Left Side and parasitically enjoy the fruits they find there.Once again, we have made a literary excursion into the realm of the great left right dichotomy. It paves the way to looking at the great left right cleavage of the biological brain used as a metaphor for understanding the personal Self.

The relationship between the personal Self and the impersonal Self has been a long discussed topic. Advaita Vedanta provides the most elaborate accounts where the impersonal Self (Brahman) and the personal self (Atman) are considered as non-dual. Advaita non-duality is a more subtle way of saying that they are indistinguishable but different whilst being identical and distinguishable. For our immediate needs, it suffices to say that they share the same structure with the personal Self simply being a more determined version of the impersonal Self. The extra determination comes about via introducing a second cut of reality with the personal Self occupying the front and the rest of reality, the personalised objects relative to the personal Self, taking up the rear as shown in Figure 5.

As can be seen, the semiotic square illustrates the human psyche, the Self, can be understood in terms of the triad of psychoanalytic terms, the Ego, Id (the “It), and the Super Ego.

Carl Jung, one of Freud’s students, claimed that the right hemisphere of the brain was the “religious” side, an observation that has already become tantalising more evident as we have been advancing. The Freudian semiotic square is essentially what Jung described as a One-plus-Three  structure. He remarked that these structures underlie most religions. This is in agreement with the theological semiotic structures that we have examined in previous sections. We wish to push the envelope further and demonstrate how any structure, treated holistically will present in a One-plus-Three format. Thus, instead of explaining Freud’s’ Ego, Id and Super Ego in strictly psychoanalytic terms, we will take a more generic approach.

In the next section, we add in the semiotic square for a holistic system that is easy to understand, a political democracy.
Figure 5 Freud’s semiotic square of the personal Self in the form of the human Psychic Self.
Political Psychology and Psychological Politics
gure 6 Two semiotic squares with a generically common ground but different figures

The material in this section is probably better suited for discussion in a tutorial situation with a small group of students. It involves an exercise in lateral thinking across several semiotic squares. The importance here is to have some fun as well as perhaps getting a deeper understanding, without actually learning anything in particular. Our fascination is in the generic shape of knowledge and less in specific content.

Figure 6 shows two semiotic squares, the Freudian square and one for parliamentary democracy. To avoid any diplomatic incidents, the democratic square has been grounded in Australian democracy, hence the flag. Freud’s square has been grounded in the psyche of a person of undetermined nationality. We will now spend a few moments explaining the democratic square as a subterfuge for explaining Freud: the author knows only a little about Freudian psychology. Like most people, he knows more about democracy and particularly how it works in his home country.

Side note:

As the author started to fill in the details of the left side of the square, as reported below, he inexorably slid into a mode of thinking that he can only describe as Zinovievian (but without the talent!). The world starts to take on a Yawning Heights (Zinoviev, 1979) character. Despite having read most of Alexandr Zinoviev, he is not really an influence, but represents rather a syndrome. It is a kind of disease, except you don’t know who has got it.. Describing left side reality from a right side perspective seems to be the catalyst.

One way of explaining the democratic square is to exploit a few Buddhist insights. This turns our subterfuge into a double subterfuge, but it can shorten a long story. Besides, everyone likes Buddhism.

Take Parliament for instance. From a Buddhist perspective, Parliament can be thought of as the house of suffering. All suffering ends up here. The house is full of suffering because of the craving. Craving stems from the Cravers down below in the bottom left side slot. The role of Parliament is to try to appease the Cravers, which presents a perennially difficult problem; hence, the suffering and angst.

Parliamentarians publically refer to the Cravers as Voters, which gives the impression that somehow the Cravers control Parliament by voting for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voting is compulsory in Australia. The main reason people vote is to avoid a fine and so have more money to spend on their cravings. However, sometimes they will vote for a Parliamentarian who seems to identify with their particular craving. In private, Parliamentarians refer to the Cravers as the “It.” The word “It” might refer to the Electorate, but more commonly, the word is used generically. Those clever enough to translate the word into German and creatively back into English might end up referring to the Cravers as the Id.

The Id is a teeming mass of opposing desires. Down-river irrigationalists confront up-river cotton farmers. Talk back radio Shock Jocks inflame the airways, railing against the boat people arriving on shore. Indigenous people writhe in the consequences stemming from when the forbears of the Shock Jocks arrived in boats on what used to be their shores. Greenies battle against loggers. Every complex, every syndrome imaginable will be found here amongst the craving Id.

That completes this little section on the left side of the Freudian psyche, written in Zinovievian mode. Coming over to the right side of the Freud square, the desire to write in Zinovievian mode vanishes. Actually, it feels a little bleak on this side as all we have is the Self in the frontal lobe and a thing called the Super Ego equipped with some powerful jurisdictional and moralising capability. There also seems to be some law enforcement capability as well. Super Ego seems to be full of lawyers and law enforcement officers.

Although we could pursue this topic at length, that is not on the agenda. So far, we have developed some experience in semiotic analysis and hopefully had some fun. The author has used these informal semiotic forms of analysis over many years in his profession developing software systems and computer languages.

Key Phrases: Semiotic square, genetic code, generic code, DNA, start codon, left right hemispheres, the divided brain, epistemology, anti-mathematics, masculine, feminine, gender differentiation,  Generic Science, Consciousness, the Hard Problem.

Dialectics, Theology, and Opposition Based Reason

Right Side Reasoning is based on Oppositions

Left side reasoning is what we associate with the traditional sciences, including mathematics. The reasoning flows sequentially from premise to conclusion via intermediary steps. Every step in the process involves a proposition of some kind, be it simple, modal, a predicate or whatever. The reasoning involves a flow of logical steps. A mathematical proof, for example, presents itself as such a flow.
In the West, we have becomes so accustomed to this way of thinking that we refuse to countenance the possibility of any other kind of formalism of reason. Our task is to demonstrate the contrary. Orthogonal to sequential reasoning of left side thinking is a non-sequential form of reasoning. We call it right side reason. Instead of thinking in terms of sequences of single units of rationality, right side reasoning takes the path of Heraclitus and expresses itself in terms of binary oppositions. 
The atomism of left side logic can involve complex propositions being formed from the sequential concatenation of simple propositions.  On the right side, the equivalent to the compound proposition is the compound opposition. There we find oppositions between oppositions. The simplest such compound structure is the semiotic square.

Non trivial aspects of left side reasoning can be taught at an elementary age. The student can be introduced to the propositional calculus including the concept of negation, disjunction and conjunction, for example. Venn diagrams can also be used as an aid to an intuitive understanding. Right side reasoning should also provide its own gentle introduction. The semiotic square is the first artifice along the road to understanding. Understanding this artifice requires many practical examples. At all times, it must be stressed that right side reasoning cannot be an abstraction. Abstractions always leave something out of the picture. In right side reasoning, the entity is investigated as a whole. The semiotic square, composed of two opposing oppositions encapsulates the whole. The whole can be thought of as Totality viewed from a particular perspective. The perspective forms an integral part of the resulting whole. The semiotic square and its dialectic is a simple tool for understanding these concepts.

The Dialectic of the One and the Many

The semiotic square can be used to analyse a particular kind of whole. In this case, the basic oppositions are deconstructed from the whole. Deconstruction is the right side equivalent of analysis. The approach can also be constructive, starting from a primary opposition; a generic whole can be constructed. This latter approach will be illustrated here. First, we look for a fundamental opposition to work with.
There are many fundamental oppositions. The most fundamental of all oppositions is the masculine-feminine gender principle of ancient pre-Socratic times. This will be considered in later chapters. Here we choose a rather more tangible opposition, that between the Many and the One. We remark, in passing, that this Many-One opposition can be thought of as a simplistic version of the masculine-feminine opposition, and so paves the way towards understanding the more advanced concept.The cardinality Many-One opposition can be considered as a dichotomy that divides reality into two. On the left side, there are the Many, on the right side there is the One. These two different realities can also be seen as the one and the same. The two realms are a consequence of the two possible takes on reality, the left side atomist take and the right side monist take. One sees an exploding multiplicity; the other sees an all-embracing unity.
This Many-One opposition provides the left-right cut for our semiotic square. The next cut is the split into the front and back. Cutting a long story short, this cut can be made by reapplying the same Many-One opposition to itself. The One side goes on the front and the Many takes up the rear. The reasoning here is that any One can be many, any Many one and there can be many Many. Last of all, there must be one One. Having exhausted all possibilities, we end up with the semiotic square in Figure 3. This is the semiotic square of the Cosmos as a whole when viewed from the perspective of its cardinalities.
The end result is that this semiotic square demonstrates not two different takes on reality, but four. There are four completely different ways to conceive reality. Such a mind-boggling vision has not gone unnoticed across the ages. Corralled by the emergence of the written word, formalised in canonised texts, different ethnic and geographical regions have coalesced around one or the other of these great doctrinal viewpoints. Each gave birth to its own world religion. There are four such world religions

Godhead Semiotics

Left side sciences rely on abstraction, the “view from nowhere”, the God’s eye view. It could be said that right side science takes the “godhead view.” It sees the world from four different vantage points. What interests us now is that each of the four different takes elaborated in the Many-One semiotic square spells out the central tenant of a world religion.
The fundamental question of theology can be asked. What is the relationship between the One and the Multiple? As can be seen from the semiotic square, there are four answers. Each is discussed below.

Figure 3 The Theological Brain. A semiotic square for the four takes on reality based on cardinality oppositions.

The One is Multiple (Judeo-Christianity)

The One is Multiple formula defines Providence, the giving, creator god. In the Judeo-Christianity, the individual roaming amongst the Multiple is showered on by the Benefactor on high. The loving god, the greatest giver, even sacrificed his own son for the redemption of the often egotistical individualists massing below. The One is Multiple doctrine emphasises free will and the temporality of the individual. Exercising free will is inexplicably concerned with temporality. The Judeo-Christian God is essentially temporal in nature. Christ is sometimes interpreted as the Lord of Universal History. The culture is very conscious of its history. God manifests through history. This is a temporal God.
Being a left side religion, the emphasis is on belief. The pious should believe in this god. It is possible, but not advisable, to disbelieve.

The Multiple is One (Islam)

In the Islamic take on reality, the tables are turned. God does not give to the masses; the masses must give to god. Islam is literally the doctrine of surrendering to god. The Judeo-Christian individual gives way to the collectivist convictions of the peoples of Islam. Gone are the historico-temporal preoccupations of the first paradigm. Enter spatiality. If Christ is the Lord of Universal History, Allah is the Emperor of Space. It is spatiality of Allah than unites the Multiple into Oneness. Allah is truly the Greatest because he is everywhere, with no exception. Mecca is the iconic centre of all spatiality dictating the spatial direction of the praying, emphasising the spatial unity of all and the spatial, all-embracing nature of Allah himself.
Islam is a right side religion and so is not based on a belief system. No Muslim believes in Allah. “There is no god”, declares the Koran. To believe in Allah would be to admit the possibility of not believing in him, a sacrilege. Situated on the right side of rationality, belief gives way to faith. Allah is the god that Muslims have faith in. “There is no god, except god,” states the Koran. Lose your faith and you lose your god. You cannot disbelieve something of which you do not have any inkling. The only way to have any inkling of Allah is to have faith in Allah. Allah walks the tautological line.

The Multiple is Multiple (Buddhism)

The Multiple is Multiple paradigm underlies Buddhism. The One has no place in this worldview soaked in Multiplicity. Each religion has its favourite icon. The iconic Buddha says many things. It radiates well-being, but what is so captivating is that famous ironic smile. The author’s strongest Buddhist image is of a lawn covered square in a Bangkok primary school. Each side of the square features a row of identical Buddhas, all looking across to the other side; multiple to multiple from left to right, multiple to multiple from front to back. Student desks were also arrayed under the awnings around the square. What an incredibly idyllic place to start school!
This Multiplicity doctrine is a left side religion, like the Judeo-Christian, and so is belief based. People believe in Buddhism. The problem is that, unlike its theist front side neighbour, there is not anything specific to believe in. All is multiplicity, there is no One. This is the belief. Working this into a tractable religion requires the work of someone of considerable intellectual agility. Hence, that ironic smile….

The One is One (Hinduism)

Advaita Vedanta is the core philosophical school of Hinduism and teaches the principle of non-duality. Ignoring the fine print, ultimately only the One is real. Apparent multiplicity is subjective and illusory. Advaita Vedanta articulates a non-compromising monism. The Western mind is reminded of Parmenides who took a similar monist position.

This Hindu doctrine is situated well and truly on the right side of the theological semiotic square and so, like Islam, is not belief based. According to Advaita Vedanta, the truth of the doctrine is obtainable via pure enlightenment. For Shankara, the founder of Advaita Vedanta, you do not believe in the oneness of the One. By enlightenment, you simply know.

The Theological Square of Squares

The theological semiotic square provides a way of understanding the four world religions and how they relate to each other. Every religion has its own semiotic square and so there are semiotic squares within the semiotic square. Take Hinduism for example. The One in the One-is-One doctrine is the Brahman, the impersonal god that cannot be worshipped directly. The Brahman can be comprehended in the form of a triad of personal gods consisting of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. This leads to the semiotic square in Figure where Vishnu occupies the same front top slot as did the Christ god and Shiva occupying the same back left slot as Allah. Brahma, who is rarely worshiped takes up the Buddhist slot. Theologians warn that this is an error. The Christ god and Vishnu are quite different as are Shiva and Allah.
One way of formalising this difference is via a semiotic square of semiotic squares where each of the four squares is located in the respective slot of the first semiotic square. We will not pursue the details of such structure here. However, a good example of such structure can be found in the signs of the zodiac where there is interplay between figure and ground, the twelve signs and the twelve houses.
At this point the reader might be wondering what has become of the topic of conversation. Basically, we are exploring elementary cognitive or generic structures and their interplay with reality.
The theological semiotic square has provided a way of understanding a holistic view of reality and that are four fundamental “takes” on reality. These four worldview paradigms are mirrored in the four world religions

Key Phrases: Semiotic square, genetic code, generic code, DNA, start codon, left right hemispheres, the divided brain, epistemology, anti-mathematics, masculine, feminine, gender differentiation,  Generic Science, Semiotic structure