The physicality of the temporal whole

An audible whole: a word, a sentence, the melody of a bird or a man or a whale. Can include a physical process as a story or narrative. Audible wholes give us the clearest view of temporal wholes.

1.) Spacial wholes require that their parts exist at once, audible wholes require that their parts do not exist at once.

2.) Causal wholes require that earlier parts cause later ones by way of direct or mediated interaction: shooting the cannonball causes the wall to fall, releasing the hormone causes the cells to grow. But audible wholes need not be like this: this B-flat you play in the piece now does not require that D later on.

So we negate the simultaneity of parts, and sometimes the causality of one part on another, but there is some unity behind both. Our first attempt to explain the unity is through the program and necessity. So the melody of the music box reduces to the program of the pins on the pin drum which pick the comb, and the parts of the water cycle reduce to the necessity of water evaporating, then condensing, then falling. The first explanation merely shifts the goalposts: we co-ordinate the temporal progression of the melody with the temporal progression of the pin drum; but this is just as much in need of reference to some unity as the melody is. The second explanation is a modal explanation and not a causal one. A thing is not a whole because its parts follow of necessity; it would be just as much a whole if they were contingent. So in neither case to we get a primary causal explanation: the program is an instrumental cause of temporal unity, and necessity is not a causal account of the unity at all.

A causal explanation of temporal wholes thus requires reference to what might be called the absolute program, that is, to something that accounts for the order of temporal parts without itself having temporal parts. Mind is the clearest case of an absolute program, since it can cause temporal order without itself being restricted to any temporal order. Something like this exists in sensation too, though in a fainter way. Sense anticipates, fears, despairs, hopes etc. and so relates to states as future; it remembers and so relates to some events as past. But in mere sensation this unity reduces to a darker, subconscious unification behind the sensation itself. One doubts that the animal is conscious of the past as past or future as future. Our mind penetrates some distance into this occult unification, and can recognize the past precisely as past, but our mind too is moved from some hinterland of causality it has no access to. It takes much of its life from the unconscious, natural world. But here nature cannot mean the mere physical processes of the nervous system, for the physical is precisely what sensation and mind transcend. This hinterland is of the cognitive order- the hidden mountaintops of the gods.

%d bloggers like this: