Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

On Narrative Dynamics

In my critiques for Writers Workshop, when it comes to dealing with general plot structure, I tend to find Todorov's theory of narrative equilibrium a good touchstone. I try not to sideswipe a client with his name and lay down a whole whack of literary theory on them, but I do find it useful as an inroad to dealing with problems of a botched narrative trigger and fuzzy, or even absent, core conflict in a novel that's trying to be a conventional thriller, say. But where Todorov sets out five stages in his model of narrative equilibrium--

equilibrium as an initial stage;
disruption of that equilibrium by some event;
recognition of that disruption by some agent;
reaction seeking to counteract that disruption;
restitution of equilibrium, but in a new form.

--what interests me is not the notion of stages at all, but rather the fact that this is ultimately a model of dynamics rather than structure. It resonates with Clute's talk of narrative grammars of Fantasy, SF and Horror, in which I think we can see the alethic and boulomaic quirk (chimera and novum, monstrum and numina,) as the disruption leading, as a result of the priming of the worldscape by other quirks written into the backstory, to the interplay of recognition and reaction Clute calls Thinning and Thickening for Fantasy and Horror, and the middle ground I'd label Twisting in strange fictions of a less morally-loaded worldscape. In the past however, I've said I think Todorov's model mixes states and the actions that transition us between them. I've suggested a revised model that seeks to draw out the distinction:

Balance (a state of equilibrium)
  • The action of an agency upon the world, entailing:
  • The reaction of the world to this activity (disruption as a process)
Discord (disruption as a state)
  • The action of the world upon the protagonist, entailing:
  • The reaction of the protagonist to this activity (recognition as a process)
Conflict (recognition as a state)
  • The action of the protagonist upon the world (reaction), entailing:
  • The reaction of world to this activity (resolution as a process)

But still, this is a bit structural for my liking, and a tad reductionist. I had a chat with a friend way back in which he lamented being taught Todorov's theory, in an English class at university, as a model that fits all narrative, universally applicable. And it just isn't, he said. I agreed. In any episode in a serial mode of narrative--I think of the 1970s TV series Monkey--it's quite possible that what's restored at the end is the exact same state as at the start. And that's just the beginning of where one might argue with a crude universalist application of the notion of narrative equilibrium. Still, even as I agreed, part of me niggled at the sense of an underlying dynamics that is, I think, the very substance of narrative. So, I find myself returning to it, to try and get at the root of what really interests me here.

I'll start then by abstracting that model above to something I'd say is pretty undeniable. Paring away the context of fiction, stripping the specifics, actually what we find is a simple (to the point of banal, maybe) model of any sort of event of action and reaction, taking place in some context between two objects, their interaction mediated by that context:

Start state
  • Action by object 1
  • Effect of action on context
  • Action on object 2
  • Effect of action on object 2
  • Reaction by object 2
  • Effect of reaction on context
End State

There's nothing, I think, remotely controversial about that, nothing arguable as an unwarranted assumption about How Things Work. Taking everything down to first principles like so, the result is so schematic as to be, I'd say, uninteresting. Meh. Whatever. It's so reduced that it doesn't really say anything useful. But it is perhaps a good basis for a reconstruction of the dynamics of an event in narrative, if we now re-introduce Todorov's disruption as object 1, an agency as object 2, with the fictive worldscape as context. I'm a firm believer in using nice simple non-Latinate nouns to label elements in a model, so let's throw some in to try and encapsulate the different transitional actions. And I'll make two small but important tweaks on the start and end states: opening them to a range; letting the latter loop back to the former:

  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
  • Jag: disruption of sensation;
  • Heed: evaluation of disruption;
  • Maneuver: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil.

Contrary to Todorov, we need not consider the startpoint equilibrium. Backstory often premises a worldscape's balance already taxed to breaking point or outright turbulent. One need only point to the opening scroll of Star Wars to see a story open with equilibrium already in ruins. If the breach is an irruption of disruption, this is not to say that other such disruptions are not in action, priming the worldscape with chronic and/or chaotic stresses. I'll hazard, in fact, that a cogent analysis of most narratives requires a grasp of how the worldscape is primed and/or fractured by such stresses at the story's start. C.f. the miasma that is in action upon the house of Atreus at the start of the Oresteia. The oldest story we have on record begins with Uruk out of whack because of Gilgamesh's wayward rule.

The opening up of potential inroads makes for an obvious answer to an obvious question? What if the outcome of the maneuver doesn't resolve things, if it doesn't achieve harmony? Well, then we must expect another breach born out of the pressure or turmoil, another iteration of the dynamics. We can expect a narrative to loop until harmony is achieved. It might, unexpectedly, carry on after that resolution, but the outroad is obvious enough that we tend to view a narrative as malformed if it loops through the cycle to an outcome that sorts out the jag of the breach decisively and then trundles on through action that now feels immaterial.

A basic anecdotal narrative--a joke, say--might stick to this simple dynamic. An Englishman, Scotsman, Irishman joke loops in three iterations. The firing squad joke sets up a base state of all three captives in North Africa, deserters from the French Foreign Legion, awaiting execution. Each selection by the sergeant gives a breach, rippling into the execution of the orders, putting each in the jag of being blindfolded, which they obviously heed. Through the three incidents, each carries out a simple maneuver, shouting a warning of an invented disaster, the outcome in the first two a distraction allowing them to escape, the opposite outcome in the third resolving the incident conflict with a twist--because instead of "Earthquake!" or "Flood!" the Irishman shouts "Fire!" Doh.

The threefold structure gives us a rudimentary escalation of metatextual conflict by resolving the first incident utterly with the simple maneuver and entering into an obvious repeat. Thing is, this is an exercise of first level agency--by which I mean, I'm hereby defining first level agency by the execution of a maneuver in this basic dynamics; we'll come to higher levels in a minute--and first level agency is basically "So what?" stuff. A maneuver that simply achieves the desired outcome is pointless narrative, insignificant; so the two iterations create a conflict of imports in the audience, between the expectation that the maneuver/outcome pattern will be applied again and the pointlessness of doing so in narrative terms given a foregone conclusion. The twist resolves that by trumping the foregone conclusion with an application of the maneuver/outcome pattern that has the opposite outcome.

In an abstract sense, if we want to think in terms of structure, we can see the Spur, Turn, Crunch architecture here in terms of the game being played with audience expectations, with audience as subject to that dynamics in place of a protagonist. The first iteration spurs a reckoning of the principle. The second iteration offers a turn by reapplying it and, by doing so, confounding expectations of a narrative complexifying beyond the first-level agency of an easy repeatable maneuver. The third crashes the assumption of repeatability into the reality of a legitimate variant of the maneuver which backfires, the punchline a crunch for the audience themself.

It's hardly a grand insight to unpack the simple joke like this, but it's revealing in so far as we're resituating the play of tensions in the audience. As an episode constructed of three incidents, this narrative has in its own right neither an exterior nor interior core conflict to resolve. The core conflict engaged as we scale up from incident to episode is outside the text, a wholly abstract clash of audience stances to the text. We might see in this then a potential for abstract narrative, for fiction which, contrary to the assumption that This Is How Narrative Works, eschews the engagement of exterior and interior core conflict as an agon binding incidents into an episode of story.

But now, let's step beyond that simple paradigm of narrative dynamics. When I say that it's only first-level agency being exercised here, in the maneuver, what do I mean? Well, here's a revision of the model that takes us into second-level agency:

Operational Balance/Pressure/Turmoil
  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
Operational Discord
  • Jag: disruption of sensation;
  • Heed: evaluation of disruption;
Operational Conflict
  • Maneuver: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil OR:
Tactical Balance/Pressure/Turmoil
  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
Tactical Discord
  • Snag: disruption of sensation;
  • Savvy: evaluation of disruption;
Tactical Conflict
  • Gambit: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil.

The story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff offers a comparable framework to the joke. The base state has all three intent on getting across a bridge to the greener pastures on the other side, the worldscape primed with a troll under that bridge who eats anyone trying to cross. In three iterations, we get a similar pattern: the breach of an attempt to cross; the ripple of hooves which trip-trap on the wood, which draws out the troll, who blocks the path; the jag of the threat of being eaten, taken heed of and answered with a maneuver. Again, the maneuver is repeated twice, in an exercise of first-level agency, both the Little Billy Goat Gruff and the Middle Billy Goat Gruff directing the troll to eat the meatier goat coming after. Again, the outcome is the one desired.

There's a difference here though (beyond the fact that each breach is an action by one of the three, rather than another agency acting upon them.) With each iteration, the situation is being changed, the reserve of meatier goats dropping, so with the second incident, the maneuver is played out. Again we can see a conflict of imports in the audience, between the grasp of the maneuver/outcome pattern as solution and the grasp that this solution's no longer viable. Here though this is not just a metatextual conflict; it's an exterior conflict for the Big Billy Goat Gruff in the text itself, the core conflict emerging in the turn of the second iteration. As the Big Billy Goat Gruff sets out (breach) trip-trapping across the bridge (ripple,) the exclusion of the maneuver means the troll in his path presents not just a jag but a snag. So, the Big Billy Goat Gruff has to level up.

The Big Billy Goat Gruff must not just heed the jag so he can maneuver in response. He must savvy the snag and make a move based on that savvy. Where the maneuver comes of simply heeding the operational logic, the established operational logic has been rendered unworkable, has to be revised. In the revision of operational logic required, his problem becomes tactical. What turns a jag to a snag, I mean, is when it pricks also any sense of security in established operations. What makes it savvy rather than heed is that it must heed the operational logic itself as much as (or as part of) the jag. What makes his move a gambit rather than a maneuver is that we have operational logic applied to operational logic, the formation of a new tactic because the standing tactic can't be applied. A maneuver can be taken from the playbook. A gambit is by definition a suppositional revision of the playbook.

So the Big Billy Goat Gruff ups his game to second level agency when he savvies the snag, heeds the jag of a tactical problem--an established operational solution made defunct. In the moment he squares up to the troll, he becomes a primal protagonist, engaging the agon in the transition from operational to tactical conflict. Suddenly this isn't just another incident we're dealing with, but as a whole an episode, born from the core conflict with the troll as antagonist. Not just obstacle but antagonist, because the problem is not how to get past him; the problem is what happens when you run out of Billy Goats Gruff? What happens when you scale up beyond the incident, to where no one can maneuver their way by the obstacle any more?

The transition is marked indeed, in this example, by a division of the gambit into two discrete moves: the new move made as an alternative to the unworkable maneuver--the Billy Goat Gruff simply charging at the troll, poking his eyes out with his horns, crushing him to bits, body and bones, and tossing him out into the river; but also, before this, the action of resolving on this move as a move in its own right--the Billy Goat Gruff squaring up to the troll and announcing his pointy-horned, big-bollocked intent. This is the moment in which story in the traditional sense is born, the ascension of a character to second-level agency.

Well, come along! I've got two spears,
And I'll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I've got besides two curling-stones,
And I'll crush you to bits, body and bones.

A peripeteia of anagnorisis, this is the classic End of Act One crunch, the moment of lock-in, by circumstance or choice, in which the character's savvy of a snag is laid bare. The tactical nature of the discord acknowledged, the narrative announces that it's tactical conflict from here. The agon is engaged.

In this simplest of stories, there is only that single act, of course. The Big Billy Goat Gruff's gambit is a resounding success, resolving the conflict in a short and sweet showdown, then and there, with no moves on the antagonist's part, only the outcome, itemised in gory detail and with much gusto. We can carry on however, to identify a third-level agency in ascension from tactical to strategic conflict, from snag to snarl, (the sense of entanglement in failed tactics,) from savvy to nous, (heeding the failure of tactical logic,) from gambit to growth (the formation of a new strategy for the formation of tactics.)

It's not hard to extend this leveling-up of the dynamics, I mean, to step the agency up again, and find in this new level the complement of the End of Act One crunch, the moment of rallying, reappraisal, re-engagement that is the End of Act Two crunch in a Three Act Structure:

Operational Balance/Pressure/Turmoil
  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
Operational Discord
  • Jag: disruption of sensation;
  • Heed: evaluation of disruption;
Operational Conflict
  • Maneuver: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil OR:
Tactical Balance/Pressure/Turmoil
  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
Tactical Discord
  • Snag: disruption of sensation;
  • Savvy: evaluation of disruption;
Tactical Conflict
  • Gambit: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil OR:
Strategic Balance/Pressure/Turmoil
  • Breach: irruption of disruption;
  • Ripple: disruption of worldscape;
Strategic Discord
  • Snarl: disruption of sensation;
  • Nous: evaluation of disruption;
Tactical Conflict
  • Growth: reaction of agency;
  • Outcome: reaction of worldscape;
Goto Harmony or Pressure or Turmoil.

This is not a structural model of narrative though, to be clear. What we're modelling here is narrative dynamics, the states of the worldscape and the transitions between them, the processes of interaction that are the substance of narrative beneath any plot structure projected onto it. The ascension of a protagonist to third-level agency is not the Plot Point 2 of a Hollywood screenplay. The latter is a benchmark positioning in an architectural template at which that dynamics should be in effect. Where "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" gives us two maneuvers and a gambit which resolves the story immediately, it's clear from the Three Act Structure that a narrative need not be resolved by the gambit. Likewise, while the Three Act Structure takes one peripeteia of growth to achieve the resolution, it's perfectly possible for a narrative's dynamics to flow on through more iterations. I will even hazard a fourth-level agency in ascension from strategy to policy.

(A side note: Lest the stratification of the model be taken as a rigid structuring, I'll suggest that where I've been talking of ascension by level, one might perhaps better view the process as one of deepening, of intensification, with the operational, tactical, strategic and policy distinctions a nominal scale applied to a continuity of increasing engagement. That's to say, beyond a simple story like "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," the sense of a phase transition that makes a move read as gambit rather than maneuver, or as growth rather than gambit, will be a subjective reckoning of the evaluation conjured in the reading, and an effective conjuring of heed, savvy and nous should be nuanced as the reality it's rendering. One might well see the Little Billy Goat Gruff as also exerting second-level agency, his move a cunning gambit, not so obvious at all. We might take the gambit as the baseline and identify the maneuver as a relatively lower-agency move--as where the Middle Billy Goat Gruff is simply copying the gambit.)

An example offers itself in Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound. In a first iteration, we get the breach of Might and Violence entering, the ripple of Hephaestos hammering Prometheus's chains, the jag of those chafing irons, the heed that leads to monologue as maneuver, Prometheus's lament of his woes, calling to the ocean waves, the Oceanids who come. In the next iteration, their entry the breach, their challenge is the ripple, and the snag comes clear: he cannot plead mercy in the maneuver they urge, will not. He responds instead with the same big-bollocked second-level agency as the Big Billy Goat Gruff, in an explicit claim of such indeed:

He who stands free with an untrammelled foot
Is quick to counsel and exhort a friend
In trouble. But all these things I know well.
Of my free will, my own free will, I erred,
And freely do I here acknowledge it.

Prometheus speaks with a Billy Goat Gruff's big balls. And his big-horned attack on the powers that put him here follows in a promise to prophecy of things to come. Enter Oceanus as new breach, to jag with a pity that Prometheus dismisses. Through each incident as iteration of the dynamics, we see Prometheus confronted, challenged with a troll to vanquish; for all that these trolls offer solace, the core conflict that is emerging, as the incidents scale up to episode, is the retention of agency while bound. For all their sympathy, they bring in antagonistic forces in their disruption.

The antagonistic drive of each disruption is a pressure to surrender, to submit, indeed, and so the story does not just feature him leveling up in agency; it is about him leveling up in agency.

To the Oceanids, in the next key iteration, he reveals the profoundly tactical nature of his gambit of resistance: he knows a secret of how Zeus will get what's coming to him. To Io, he reveals more to his gambit of waiting: he knows that after all her torment of wanderings, one of her descendants, thirteen generations down the line--Herakles--will release him. He reveals the nature of that secret indeed: he knows of a union that will undo philandering Zeus, a maiden whose child will be greater than its father. With not just savvy but nous, his revelation is not just a gambit but growth. He ascends to third-level agency, his actions strategic.

No surprise that this moment of rallying agency, of a Prometheus with pitying visitors for his eagles leveling up to an iron will forged in the crucible, has the outcome of bringing on the final showdown, the arrival of Hermes as breach, to lay clear the snarl of his situation with an ultimatum, a last chance: This, then, is all thine answer: thou'lt not / One syllable of what our Father asks? But the Chorus make it clear what this entails, even as they urge it: For he enjoins thee to let self-will go / And follow after prudent counsels. Him / Harken; for error in the wise is shame. And Prometheus, bound, roars back with all the power of fourth-level agency, his stance no mere maneuver, no simple tactical gambit, and not just strategic, but rather an action rendered of principle in this moment, made a policy:

These are stale tidings I foreknew;
Therefore, since suffering is the due
A foe must pay his foes,
Let curled lightnings clasp and clash
And close upon my limbs: loud crash
The thunder, and fierce throes
Of savage winds convulse calm air:
The embowelled blast earth's roots uptear
And toss beyond its bars,
The rough surge, till the roaring deep
In one devouring deluge sweep
The pathway of the stars
Finally, let him fling my form
Down whirling gulfs, the central storm
Of being; let me lie
Plunged in the black Tartarean gloom;
Yet-yet-his sentence shall not doom
This deathless self to die!

And there can be only one outcome here, because what he acts upon in the world is himself, resolving all conflict into the harmony of awe. It is not a new equilibrium he establishes in any sense of peace, tranquility. Pressure and turmoil remain. In the awe is every ounce of terror and pity Aristotle would write about. But his response is beyond even growth; it is epiphany.

So, I'll leave you with this model of narrative dynamics, and with Aeschylus's Prometheus as a potent emblem of the agency at the heart of it, with Todorov's equilibrium turned inside out maybe, no longer focused on an ideal harmony with the protagonist the subject of a formal structure of stages aimed at restoring sterile order, albeit in a new form. No, narrative exists for the dynamics, exists to celebrate the agency that drives it.

He is the paragon of agency, Prometheus, and he is bound into every narrative, at some level or other, from the simplest fairytale of Three Billy Goats Gruff--from the most basic joke even--to the most sophisticated novel cycling through the process, up and down the levels--or in and out the depths of engagement--in the most intricate riverrun of breaches, ripples, jags and snags and snarls, gambits, growth and epiphany, driving onward for resolution not to fit some structural template of architected stages but because it is the nature of narrative to roar and crash, its shape emerging in the substantiation of a simple but inexhaustibly profuse dynamics of agency always already bound within its worldscape, but always already, in itself, unbound.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Wee Tour

I'll be off on  a wee Spring Tour with The Dead Man's Waltz this month, with a few gigs to celebrate the launch of their "Last Train from Paris" single. Which is amazing, btw, one of my favourite tracks of theirs. It's a beautiful track, rich with the sense of real-world narrative, the profound import of history on individual lives, that gives the lyrics of "Emmeline" a power to match the music (and again drawing from WWII for its inspiration.)

(They so need to make a video for "Last Train from Paris," but I'm happy to post "Emmeline" again in lieu of it.)

Anyway, I'll be doing a wee set, twenty minutes or so, in the middle of each gig. I might do the Story's End material, "The Toymaker's Grief" and "The Boy Who Loved Death," but I'm thinking of changing it up a little, currently musing on whether other stories might play to better to the atmosphere of "Last Train from Paris." So, if you're in Glasgow, Inverness or Aviemore over the next few weeks, here's the dates to put in your diary:

Feb 22 - The Poetry Club, SWG3 Studio Warehouse, Glasgow (£5 on door)
Feb 23 - Hootenanny, Inverness (free entry)
Feb 27 - Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore (free entry)

Come along and see us. I'm sure it'll be awesome whatever I do, because whatever I do, The Dead Man's Waltz will be playing. And that's all you need to know really.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

On Epistemology

On the Nature of Truth

Premise: The truth value of an epistemic position ("is (not)") is three-dimensional:
    1.1. Sequentiality: An epistemic position may be applicable/inapplicable for the point in time to which it is applied.
    1.2. Certainty: An epistemic position may be secure/insecure within the range of those positions that are applicable.
    1.3. Effectuality: An epistemic position may be sustainable/unsustainable due to the degree of effect it would produce.

    1. "He is an artist" is inapplicable for the child or the person who has quit the vocation.
    2. "He is an artist" is unsure if "He is a mere craftsman" or "He is a mere hack" are also applicable.
    3. "He is an artist" is untenable for the person who destroys all art they produce.

Note: In 2, the use of "artist" is not categorical, but rather a placement on a nominal scale within a category. For a finite range of discretely possible epistemic positions, where the range is applicable, certainty is the distribution of possibility within one position in relation to the whole. Hard (Heisenbergian) uncertainty, if I understand correctly, holds that this is objective. In a subjective sustainability problem, effectuality would be sufficient to establish applicability of the range, but not to establish applicability for a single position within it; assuming that positions are incompatible, only one is actually applicable; it's simply a failure to establish which. In an objective certainty problem, effectuality is sufficient to establish simultaneous applicability for various positions within the range; since positions are incompatible, another dimension of actuality is required to model the distribution.

It may be clearer if one considers "secure" and "insecure" as judgements of applicability in a second temporal dimension. For simplicity's sake, we'll take "artist" in its categorical sense, such that as soon as a person starts producing works of art they are an artist, and as soon as they quit the vocation they cease to be an artist. Now, consider a twenty year period in the life of a person, at the middle of which they quit their artistic vocation. For the first decade, "He is an artist" is applicable. For the second decade, it is not. Now consider that stretch of two stints--one in which "He is an artist" is applicable and one in which it is not--as a second temporal dimension running not forward and back but side to side. The idea in the notion of certainty is that any moment may have span such that "He is an artist" is both applicable and inapplicable. It thus becomes less secure, more insecure, my point in this labelling being to escape the implicit absolute of "certain"; if something is secure, that doesn't mean it couldn't be more secure.

See the Community episode in which Abed has a meltdown trying to answer the question: "Nicholas Cage: good or bad?" Why? Nicholas Cage veers wildly in performance such that over the stint of one movie he's great, but over the stint of the movie immediately after he's awful. Because the stretch in which those two stints is being collapsed down to ask if he's essentially good or bad, Abed is to all intents and purposes approaching it as an objective certainty problem: the span is such that two mutually incompatible positions are equally applicable, indeed equally actual. (The joke is partly in rejecting it as a subjective sustainability problem: effectuality is sufficient to establish that Cage is too good to be considered bad, but it is also sufficient to establish that Cage is too bad to be considered good.) Cage is being treated as existing in a superposition of two eigenstates, like Schroedinger's Cat. (The correct answer to the question is, "Yes.")

We can develop this notion of certainty to something more sophisticated if we return to the comparison with a conventional notion of time. If we take "artist" as a position on a nominal scale within a category, we can imagine a twenty year stretch in which a creator begins as a mere craftsman and develops their artistry to a peak point as a maestro, only to degenerate afterwards to a mere hack. Here, we're treating "artist" as encapsulating the quantifiable applicability of artistry, which becomes more and more applicable as it increases up to the peak, less and less so afterwards. Let's imagine it as a nice smooth bell curve. Improvement begins slow but accelerates when the creator finds their voice. It slows again as they approach the best they can be. There's a tipping point where they start to dry out, and a plunge as they surrender to hackdom. Finally it bottoms out as it becomes harder to get any worse with their basic craft skills. Over the twenty year stretch, the y position on that curve is the degree of their artistry.

An upside-down reflection of that curve would map the applicability of the two other qualities: mere-craftsmanship and mere-hackdom. We'd start at a peak of mere-craftsmanship at the same height as the zenith of creativity. This would decrease slowly then plunge as artistry rises, bottoming out as artistry peaks. From the tipping point, mere-hackdom kicks in, taking off as the creator gives up and artistry plummets. We end with mere-hackdom at the same pinnacle mere-craftsmanship occupied at the start, at the same pinnacle artistry occupied in the middle. Now all we need to understand is that there are two crunch points: where artistry surpasses mere-craftsmanship; where hackdom surpasses artistry. And in this use of the terms "mere craftsman," "artist," and "mere hack," which quality has surpassed which is written into the definitions via that "mere."

One could use "wannabe," "maestro" and "has-been" here, instead. It doesn't matter. The point is, these are nominal labels for discretely possible epistemic positions with a range. Though the qualities they encapsulate overlap, the labels define states that are mutually incompatible. "He is a mere craftsman" ceases to be applicable as soon as "He is an artist" is, and "He is an artist" ceases to be applicable as soon as "He is a mere hack" is. Across the stretch of twenty years, there are three positions applicable in three different stints.

Now, all we need do is, again, translate to our second temporal dimension, imagine that curve running side to side rather than front to back. At the single moment in which we are looking to establish whether "He is an artist" is true, what we find is a superposition of three mutually incompatible eigenstates. "He is an artist" is applicable, but so too are "He is a mere craftsman" and "He is a mere hack." We can say with absolute security (i.e. certainty) that he is a creator. And it's not a subjective sustainability problem. It's not that effectuality is inadequate to discriminate whether the threshold has been passed between mere craftsman and artist or between artist and mere hack. It's that effectuality is sufficient to establish each of these sustainably. Actuality is itself complex.

One could see it as a problem of inconsistent definitions addressing actuality in terms of discrete, encapsulated entities rather than decomposing them to variable qualities, but at the mesocosmic level we occupy, with the way we parse sensation... we can't not see the world in terms of objects. And when we unpack the stuff of actuality at the lowest level, its qualities themselves end up with this uncertainty, e.g. the very location or energy of an electron. Deal with it. We need a measure of the degree to which the actuality of an epistemic position is rendered unsound not by sequentiality, its applicability or inapplicability over time, or by effectuality, its sustainability or unsustainability by evidence, but solely by the legitimacy of alterior incompatible positions--its security or insecurity as a contender with or without competition.


On the Nature of Alterity

The idea of truth being composite like this may seem a horrifying breach of logic to some. How can it be that, in one moment, three mutually incompatible positions are all true? Even with just the two, whether it's Nicolas Cage or Schroedinger's Cat, how can we imagine that an epistemic position and its inverse are both simultaneously true? Isn't Not(A & NotA) the very foundation of logic? It's all very well pointing to the crazy counter-intuitive mindfucks of quantum physics, but how can we hope to make sense of the world applying an epistemology that rejects the very law of noncontradiction?

If one can imagine change from one moment to the next, however, that change always already requires (A & NotA) to be an actuality. It is indeed the very cornerstone of actuality itself that this premise does not apply, that there is a conjunction of alterior states which are incompatible. That this moment is no longer the previous moment, A, means that it is now NotA. That the previous moment has not been rendered a logical impossibility which could never have happened, that A retains the truth value of did happen, means that truth is contingent on location in at least one temporal dimension (hence the sequentiality written into applicability.) This is the very essence of the notion of change, and we surely have no problem whatsoever in imagining that fluidity of the change from one state to another, the role of the "&" in (A & NotA) as a transition between them. That alterity of temporally fused states we call change does not generally blow our minds with the notion of a week in which Monday and NotMonday somehow manage to both be true.

All we need do is apply the same principle to accept a different type of mutability, to say that just as Not(A & NotA) is unsound by dint of one state flowing into the next, it is unsound by dint of one state bleeding into its nearest in another temporal dimension. If we can accept that we straddle A and NotA from one moment to the next, in the shift between them, it is not really that hard, I think, to accept that we straddle A and NotA across simultaneous moments, so to speak, in the superposition of alterior states, in the span of time. What persists in the shift from one moment to the next is the stuff the (non-persistent) alterior states of which we're transitioning between. This is only to take another angle on it, arrange moments side by side, and say that across these moments stuff consists to blend the (non-consistent) alterior states we're transectioning through.

So the truth value of an epistemic position has these two dimensions, applicability and security, because it is limited in both. Part of the sharpness of wit in that "Nicholas Cage: good actor or bad actor?" joke lies in the fact that, while we don't have to deal with large-scale physical uncertainty in terms of his location, we do consistently collapse sequentiality like that and adopt epistemic positions on subjects that are irresolvable unless we accept that not only does the truth change over time but truths overlap in the same time. Epistemology must accommodate that actuality because that is the nature of actuality.

So, as we unpack epistemic truth to its constituents, we strip away the artifice of essentialist logic which in rejecting the conjoined alterities of (A & NotA) rejects change itself. Unless we allow for change in the very underpinnings of our approach to epistemology, we cannot address actuality--that which is--only that which appears constant through the changes--that which (seemingly) must be. Which is not epistemology at all, but rather might better be termed alethology. Or simply metaphysics. Here, change is made central, axiomatic, as it must be. We must have an existential logic that allows (A & NotA) because what we are dealing with here is existence.

We might do well to abandon the very notion of truth, indeed, in favour of actuality, (or in the establishment of such for epistemic positions, sound and unsound, as I've been slipping in here,) because where truth is slathered with millennias' worth of essentialism painting it in notions like eternal and necessary, actuality bares its raw existentialism in the first syllable. The actual is, at its root, of or pertaining to the act, always already active. This is the heart of is-ness, that in so far as an epistemic position has a positive value of actuality, as long as it is sound, it is applicable to that which persists, and secure among that which consists, as an articulation sustainable upon that which resists.

Which is to say, with the final dimension of actuality, effectuality, we are dealing with that which actively asserts itself against non-is-ness, flouting the theoretical baseline state born of alethic approaches--an eternal nothingness in which nothing ever was, is, or will be--by instantiating as the stuff by which, of all possible worlds, ours marks itself out to us as actual. Substance is that which resists--has always already resisted--the absence of its necessity, defying the logic of creatio ex nihilo simply by being manifest and patently so--patently just so, versus all the other just so's, and so-and-so's, and such-and-such's, that could have been.

The degree of effect produced, the extent to which an epistemic position, if it is manifestly sustained in and of itself, instantiated in the phasespace of all possibilities, brings into being a shock wave of ramifications, of consequential manifestly sustained epistemic positions which serve as evidence for it, as the ripples on a pond serve as evidence of the splashed stone--this is a fundamental measure of the truth of that position. We can think of it as sustainability from our subjective perspective, in so far as we're often trying to reverse-engineer the cause from the effects, but that is only a pragmatic spin on effectuality as measure of how far an epistemic position sustains itself, if we only had the savvy to explicate all the consequences by which it manifestly does so. If the effectuality of any given point in, or region of, space is variable, together with applicability and security, this becomes a measure of instantiation at any such locale, and in so far as effectuality is causal impact, instantiation means the energy level therein.


On the Nature of Necessity

A ramification of this: if truth is actuality, there are no necessary truths, not if we go by the fairly standard definition of such, in which a necessary truth is not just logically necessary--a presupposition the negation of which would be an oxymoron--but therefore true: since oxymoronic presuppositions are invalid and can't be true in any possible world, so the argument goes, they can't be true in our world; the logically necessary negation of that presupposition is, therefore, a hard fact of our world, as it would be of any other.

This is not sound in this epistemology. A negation of an oxymoron would be necessarily applicable in all possible worlds, but it would only be sustainable in the subset of any actual worlds. The set of all possible worlds is a phasespace of permutations of applicability abstracted from the sustainable, the spectrum of what could be abstracted from what is. One cannot add a dimension of sustainability to expand the set such that every possible world gains a counterpart with sustainability. Creating a set of all possible worlds which are possible and a set of all possible worlds which are actual, that criteria would be redundant, as the worlds which are possible are already possible, and the worlds which are actual are also already possible. The latter remains a subset of the former. If one thinks to define the sets as mutually exclusive--worlds which are only possible versus worlds which are actual--this only renders the former a subset too, a zone within the same phasespace of all possible worlds we began with. The point is that for all the negation of an oxymoron remains necessarily applicable across all of these, it is only a hard fact in any of the possible worlds that is itself a hard fact; it is not necessarily "true" because it is not necessarily instantiated in stuff in any world other than our own. It is, at best, a necessary precondition of that which is true.

Further, in the one possible world we know to have sustainability, for all that a negation of an oxymoron is logically necessary, this does not in fact make it necessarily applicable and sustainable. That is to presuppose, by the law of noncontradiction, that an oxymoron is necessarily inapplicable and unsustainable because it is logically invalid, that in no situation of actuality will it ever be the case that two mutually incompatible epistemic positions are simultaneously applicable and indeed sustainable by dint of them both being literally in effect. Effectively, this is to deny the dimension of certainty, to assert that the actuality value of all applicable and/or sustainable positions is always absolutely secure.

Since insecurity is defined by incompatibility, to reject it as a dimension is simply to assert that a position and its negation never co-occur: Not(A & NotA). The presupposition that the law of noncontradiction applies here rests on the presupposition that the law of noncontradiction applies, an illegitimate circular argument. For any negation of an oxymoron to be not just logically necessary but a necessary truth, the law of noncontradiction must be a necessary truth, and it is arguable in both respects: its applicability and sustainability remain completely contestable, so there are zero grounds to call it true; and the circularity of logic entailed in asserting the security of an epistemic position that insecurity is not possible means there are no grounds to even call it logically necessary. It is necessary to logic, not by logic, an axiomatic stricturing conceit.

Further, in the one possible world we know to have sustainability, the law of noncontradiction is evidently inapplicable and unsustainable as a presupposition, being not wholly applicable and sustainable as a supposition in every moment. This is the case in the sense that language simply isn't strictured such that two mutually incompatible epistemic positions are never equally applicable. But it is also the case in the hardest sense of sustainability, the consequential epistemic positions manifestly sustained in actuality itself substantiating--in all senses of the term--the actuality of insecurity. We can observe (A & NotA) in effect.

So there can be no necessary truths in the standard definition. An epistemic position may have the hyper-consistency in which its negation would be an oxymoron, but with contradictory positions potentially sound anywhere but in the realm of traditional logic which deems them invalid as a preconditional constraint, we cannot speak of these as necessary. They are, for want of a less obscure term, decretory--relating to or fixed by a decree or decision. The decree here is the law of noncontradiction, by which the negation of any oxymoron is automatically fixed as a precondition in any discourse cleaving to the strictures of traditional logic.

Actually, it is no bad thing to strip this usage from the term "necessary." In its primary sense of a requisite condition or consequence--that which is necessary to an outcome, that which is necessary as an outcome--it is profoundly of the discourse of causality, of contingency. It belongs not with "truth" but with "action" and "reaction," as descriptor of the very relationship of contingency, of one actuality being contingent upon another, the necessary, which is, as another parsing of the causal chain of substantiation, itself as liable to be contingent on some other actuality. It is dangerous to obfuscate this. There is a categorical difference between that which must be in order for X or that which must be with any instance of X and that which must be. The first two are necessity. The last is precondition.

The philosophical abuse of this word which appropriates it from the domain of existential consequential dynamics to put a mask of imperative authority upon some abstracted schematics held to be the essential--which is to say, spiritual--order of preconditions predetermining all things is a travesty, and the intellectual bankruptcy of this gambit is evident in the persistent ontological shenanigans by which these wholly suppositional conceits are rigged to set a Toy God on a throne as a "necessary truth."

Even where we're dealing with the most impartially constructed and evidently applicable and sustainable alethic models, as with mathematics and physics, the presuppositions and suppositions of these abstracted schematics are necessary only as any other condition or consequence, necessary in the sense of requisite to an end, in the sense of outcomes bound to follow, in the sense of consequential dynamics. They model the apparent necessities we live through, which is to say they seek constances of patterns of change which may be presupposed as defining that dynamics, but progress in this endeavour is achieved precisely by rejecting the imperative of a presupposition, recasting it as supposition in order to make it revisable by theory and/or experiment; they remain necessarily inadequate because inadequacy must follow causally when adequacy is contingent on an answer to why that which is necessary actually is--i.e. why any of all possible worlds, of all possible alethic models, any of these should actually be instantiate; and they are only ever, at best, a model that fits the substance of the mystery.


On the Nature of Actuality

For my part, I posit that there is no necessity in the essentialist sense, that the mistake is to see the set of all logically possible worlds as a set of discrete potential universes in which some alethic model or other is written into the fabric, with one, some or all of these instantiated who knows how. I posit that the start point is a chaos of complete spatial and temporal inconsistency in which certainty and sustainability are just two of six of however many dimensions, the whole always already instantial. If one can imagine time as three dimensional, there's no need to imagine a start and end for it, no more than one must imagine a golden spiral carved over the surface of the moon beginning or ending at the inmost and utmost points it would never reach were its graving a process in time rather than a whorl around a globe.

If one can imagine that moon turned inside out to a bubble of the instantial, indeed, all imaginable curves of relationships between sequentiality, certainty and effectuality wrought in the inner face of a hollow sphere, intersecting in all permutations to form a phasespace of all possible states, in which all epistemic positions are applicable and none secure, sustainability can be understood as simply that which one expects of chaos. Absolute inconsistency must be inconsistently inconsistent. It must be granular across all scales. Maybe, contrary to Hassan i Sabbah, everything is true and nothing is permitted--in the sense of absence of substance being just as unforbidden, negative space being a facet of chaos defining finities of form, beautiful intricacies of contingent truth.

Toy Gods or Cosmic Order--I have never seen the appeal of looking to conceits of sterile "necessary truths" for the source of actuality. Or the necessity, indeed. Within chaos, what should we expect but zones of the instantial that cohere as instants, any one of them unbeginning and unending as a golden spiral but, in their intricate convolution of dimensions, a phenomena of substance manifest as a sustainable and secure instant in the infinity of the applicable? An actuality--any actuality--might, I mean, seem to that which is composed of its substance--i.e. us--a course of sustainability through applicability with insecurity to either side, in a lateral dimension we are largely oblivious to except for where, in stretching the limits of our observation to the quantum level, the limits of that security become evident.

This notion of actuality is in itself something of a fanciful alethic conceit, of course, but beneath the grand cosmological suppositions, it is an attempt at least to ground our approach to knowledge, our epistemology, in a recognition of change as a fundamental feature, a recognition that the law of noncontradiction, (A & NotA), is the very opposite of lived experience. Change is the bedrock of our experience, the stuff of which it's made, and if we would reconcile the fluidity of time with the fixedness of truth, I think experience points the way to a fusion of the two as different perspectives on each other--literally.

We are aware of that flow between states because we are aware of the aspects of actuality for which the values vary from one moment to the next. We are aware, in each moment, of the state of that multi-dimensional phasespace we call sensation, with its qualia of red and green, yellow and blue, the scent of honeysuckle, warmth, birdsong. We have a subjective sense of the passing of time as part of that phasespace, as a peculiarly distinct dimension of this model, a dimension we're ever slipping onward through. Where most other dimensions of that phasespace are ultimately making sense of stuff which is, at the other end, measured by the degree to which it has effect, simply energy, (albeit sometimes taking the form of matter, having gotten all tangled up with itself,) it doesn't seem so left-field a supposition to me to fancy our forward motion from state to state as a scan, taking in the volume of actuality-as-time, time-as-actuality, in slice by slice encapsulations of 2D state, with security and substantiality as x and y axes, with the z axis simply our vector of travel.

Time's arrow is a puzzle if we imagine the straight line of a single dimension in which either direction is equally legitimate. Introduce another dimension or two, and one can introduce the chirality of a logarithmic spiral, the essential outwardness of one direction versus the inwardness of the other. There is nothing to choose between left and right. Forward is only whichever way we face. Up is only an artefact of gravity. But outward... outward is the fundamental direction of an expanding universe.


On the Nature of Existence

What would it mean to exist in such a 3D time? With no presupposition of essential arrow-like linear progress, of a flow from a start point that could only have some atemporal First Cause, can we reconstruct anything like the existential experience of not just stepping into the Heraclitean river but being carried along through it? Maybe we can, I think, if we return to that golden spiral on the silvery surface of an inside-out moon. It might even be easier to make sense of than the arbitrary onwardness of a cosmos of largely time-symmetric processes, where the increase of entropy in a closed system over time is only an index of the directionality, requiring the directionality in its definition, and where we might wonder why one dimension in that four-dimensional spacetime has a wavefront effect to us, rather than simply the whole 4D cosmos standing in a steady state.

That's to say, if we imagine Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatlanders living in their two dimensional space, experiencing their third dimension of time as an ongoing progression, couldn't we equally imagine each moment on that plane snapshotted and placed atop the previous, such that the third dimension is constructed as height rather than time? Imagine a Big Bang / Big Crunch like cosmic history for Flatland, starting as a dot, expanding in a circle of ever increasing radius, slowing its expansion, starting to contract again, and ultimately ending at another dot. Take each momentary state of Flatland and set them atop one another from Big Bang to Big Crunch and you end up with these strata constructing a nice regular sphere, the size of an orange, say, the beings in our pocket universe microscopic.

Once you have this 3D object, even presupposing there's an inherent upwards grain to it--a slow entropic dimming of colour from Big Bang to Big Crunch, say--where do we get the weird effect of flux in this stable, static form? Why should that little thread of a being deep in the heart of the ball, caught like a fly in amber, have a sense of being born Master Circular O. Circle, Esquire in an ever-changing Flatland, living through the dynamics of days and decades until his eventual death, at the end of that microscopic thread, a millimeter up from where it began? If we're treating time as a singular dimension like this, I mean, change is only vertical structure. We can't insist that such a structure must be constructed from the ground up, in a temporal process. To do so is only to add another dimension of time, to cast the vertical temporal construction of this 3D object as playing out sequentially in a fourth temporal dimension, as if we watched it grow before our eyes. How then do we get the flow of change?

Let's return to our bubble of complete chaos, our inside out moon and the spiral etched into its inner surface. This spiral being a structure, we can't insist that it takes time to construct, no more than we can do so for the sphere of Flatland's history. We can't presuppose time for the process of inscribing it, or we're simply bootstrapping our conceit, applying time as linear dimension again to explain time as a linearity. If we're to tackle the nature of existence here, it must take no linear time at all to construct this spiral, and yet the spiral must manifest something that looks and acts like the flow we know, something with sequentiality, with consequentiality.

If it's a Fibonacci Spiral then, there's sequentiality written into it: its definition constructs it sequentially--as opposed to applying a polar co-ordinate equation, say, where any and all angles concurrently define a radius for that angle. In so far as each number in the Fibonacci Sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...) is the sum of the previous two, there's not just sequentiality but consequentiality. There's even a parsing into overlapped states of a sort, if we view it that way, where the second number in one state (13 & 21) becomes the first number in the consequential state (21 & 34). I cannot help but see here a hint of that (A & NotA) which is the paradox of change, the combination of alterities, the persistence between the shift, an ambit of applicability straddling past moment and current moment, creating the future moment in the combination thereof, transitioning to the new state, and leaving a trail of the past behind it, curled away within it, as it moves ever onward.

It's a pattern of growth, the Fibonacci Sequence, and that's what we're dealing with in time's arrow, surely, not the transition between states but the accretion of states. With movement in a temporal dimension, we have only transition, implicitly reversible and implicitly requiring time in its own definition. Accretion requires something more complex. But, one might quibble, that sequence is still just a sequence of numbers, still just one-dimensional. But, I might respond, the bracketing of (13 & 21) that produces 34 implies circumscription of state via another dimension.

As our Flatlander, Master Circular O. Circle, Esquire, once in another figurative fancy, might have met twin circles that were really one 3D being--a torus--intersecting the plane, so we might imagine him now intersecting with the Lineland of a single dimension, bisected horizontally by the plane, circumscribing (13 & 21) within his 2D unity. It is this shifting frame we're looking for, the circumscription of (A & NotA,) and it seems to me we require something beyond mere linearity to achieve it. That if we suppose something beyond mere linearity, we start to see something with the paradox of unified alterior states we're looking for, the paradox of flow.

Here there might be a temporal flux of sorts then, but it is not as simple as traveling in a straight line along a one-dimensional axis. If we might suppose in this figurative conceit a frame of consequential flow, (and it's a fair-sized if, I freely admit,) the self-similarity of such a spiral at any scale is going to make any moment indistinguishable from the last or the next. If we imagine a being somewhat similar to our Flatlander carried steadily forward in this flow, for all that there's the consequentiality, and the outwardness, and the chirality, it's going to be a dull life for... Fred, let's call him, as changeless as if he lay in a sensory deprivation chamber, in a train travelling at a constant speed in one spatial dimension. If nothing varies beyond position along that curve, all points along the journey will be equivalent states, and our Fred will appear to himself to be static.

Suppose now, however, we add a vertical dimension. This is a spiral on the surface of the moon, after all, and for all that the moon is turned inside-out, its surface remains a rugged rockscape of crag and crater. And if the spiral is sequentially scribing itself over it, from state to state, it's not digging deep, gouging through, simply tracing its way lightly over the terrain. So, now the flow is angling up here and down there, now different points along the journey have different gradients, and any being that is a part of it, bound into the sequentiality might be aware of gradients and thereby aware of their change, acquiring this strange new sense of temporal progression. Afloat in his dark watery upright cocoon, Fred would remain quite unaware that he's moving forward spatially, (figuratively spatially, at least.) With only gradient defining state change, he would appear to himself to be simply varying in terms of angle, pitching up and down. Since we're dealing with a line already curving, the third dimension comes into play immediately too--the side-to-side at right angles to the forward direction, with this too varying up or down, a sideways gradient introducing roll as well as pitch, wherever the flow traces a path not up but along some slope in the mountains of the moon.

Born into this flow, Fred would have a sense of temporal progression and of ever-changing angular orientation. Both would be entirely products of a three dimensional timescape, but to him forward would be a straight-shooting time's arrow, and his own state the stable thing that changes in it, angular orientation the substance of his reality. We should, I think, be imagining his sense of temporal progression unmoored from any imaginary "rate" of flow, to be clear: to Fred, locked into the cascade of consequentiality, it's simply that the more radically the pitch and roll shift, weaving up and down, the more he senses that shift, the more stint seems to pass, the longer it takes to travel, say, a mile forward; meanwhile, on a clear stretch, as things flatten out, travelling a mile seems to take a fraction of the time. (Or vice versa, stint expanding as shift decreases, the boredom of inactivity tending to stretch our subjective sense of stint while, as they say, time flies when you're having fun.) In fact, the flow is covering both miles in no time at all by any exterior measure. In fact, his sense of a one-dimensional flow is already actually 2D, the ratio of stint and shift.

We need not imagine that sense of angular orientation as anything remotely comparable to the kinaesthetic sense of pitch and roll we would experience travelling in such a manner. Imagine instead that Fred, being as alien to us as Master Circular O. Circle, Esquire senses gradient as colour, with upwards and downwards pitch signified by red and green respectively, roll to the left and to the right signified by yellow and blue. These being the two basic opponent processes from which, along with the light-dark opponent process, our perceptual colourspace is constructed, Fred essentially experiences his cosmos as an all-encompassing glow ever-shifting from one hue to another. He could even construct a world from the dimensional relationships between the opponent processes, red and green as his north and south, yellow and blue as his west and east, imagining himself adrift over his own little Flatland, something like a slice of our L*a*b* colourspace.

Fred would have no idea that his motion is in fact over a three-dimensional surface, that what he experiences as random drift around an ocean of colour is in fact a product of that complexity: where he seems to be drifting far north (i.e. redward,) it's actually that the steady forward flow of consequentiality is carrying him up a steep gradient; where he seems to be drifting to the greenish-yellow, he's actually traversing a steep downslope sideways and rolled to the left because of it. If you told him that the forward direction of the flow was actually a curve around the inner surface of a whole hollow sphere of time, this polychromatic Flatlander would simply have no reason to place any credence in this. No, no, no, he'd say. He lives in a Flatland of oceanic light--violet and scarlet and umber. Look! That way is redward, and this direction is greenways.

So he's carried along through this existence malarkey, finding that an epistemic position, "I'm moving redward," is applicable one moment, inapplicable the next, finding his alethic supposition that "One can only go so far redward," sustainable by the evidence of his senses, while, for the most part, the basic linearity of the curve means that the sideways dimension of security is of little impact. Since time and truth are three dimensional, there's a little span to Fred's flow, but it's about as slim as a path can get.

Still, since we're imagining his qualia of pitch and roll quite other than our proprioception, we'll imagine the exterior mechanism quite other too. No inner ear for Fred, rather he gleans his raw data via sensors extended out into the flow, his qualia translations of readings of how high the ground is rising to the right and how low it's falling to the left, or vice versa. And over time Fred's senses attune, develop. He's able to reach out further across the span of the flow, narrow as it is.

The further out he reaches, the more accurate a reading he gets for the general gradient of the slope he's travelling along--or, as Fred in his Flatland of oceanic light thinks of it, the harder he looks, the clearer the colour becomes, so he knows exactly how far west of the centre of the world he is--or wherever. This being good to know for a curious being, he tries all the harder, gets better and better at it. Only, one day, when he reaches out really far, an unfathomably strange thing happens. Because the flow does sometimes pass over humps and dips in its journey, so when Fred's senses become able to reach out insanely far, what he gets back are readings of the flow falling on both sides where it passes over a hump, or rising on both sides as it moves through a dip. Or, as Fred perceives it, he finds himself dealing with an impossible colour that's somehow yellow and blue together. I mean, he's in two places in his Flatland at once, simultaneously west and east. And that's just not, as far he's concerned, even possible.

This is the very substance of his actuality behaving in a way that defies sense. Location has a single value. You're either here or you're there. You can't be here and there simultaneously. Fred has long since abstracted the law of noncontradiction from his experience of the opponent processes of red and green, yellow and blue. As simple as that sensory system is, the relationships of mutual incompatibility written into it have been enough for him to formulate the rule: Not(A & NotA). And this... this is the very fabric of his Flatland breaching that logic, flouting its own evident physics. It's utterly counter-intuitive, if not downright incomprehensible.

If we suggested to him then that this was due to the substance of time itself extending not just forward but side-to-side, in a dimension of certainty, I dare say, it would still seem a wild fancy, as it would if we told him the stuff of his world, that oceanic light, was all the effectuality of time, the rising and falling of actuality in its third dimension warping his path from the featureless nullity of a flat plain to a rough ride over the wilds of stuff. He would think of space as a plane, and time as a dimension, and energy as stuff within that continuum. He would, like us, have a notion of truth that was quite distinct from time and energy, one with little need to accommodate insecurity--with little capacity to accommodate this notion of a sideways temporal dimension to each moment he passes through. But he would, as we are, I think, be dealing with an actuality in which, to all intents and purposes, truth is time, with energy as a dimension. Truth is time is instance is substance. And existence is to be of that actuality.

Sequentiality, certainty and effectuality. Applicability, security and sustainability. Stint, span and shift. I see these as being as fundamental to our existence as length, breadth and height--or upwise angle, sidewise angle and distance outwards, if one prefers polar co-ordinates to define location in space. In so far as any dimension is removed from the measure of actuality, we are no longer speaking of existence. Some of the more vapid "problems" of philosophy become quickly dismissible if we take this as foundation--the existence of universals, the truth of a proposition about a fictional character, the necessary existence of a Toy God.

In this existentialist epistemology, if we accept (A & NotA), we leave it perfectly legitimate to construct a subset of logical systems which, as a constraint, reject it, but we open logic out to a system of suppositions rather than propositions, (one which I would contend--and no doubt will at some point--may become more powerful by exploring the transitions where (A1 & NotA1 [i.e. A2]) becomes (A2 & NotA2 [i.e. A3]) and by making explicit the modalities that come into play when the absolute is-ness of a law of identity resting on that law of noncontradiction is abolished--for then we must start to talk also of what was or will be, what would and could be, what might or may or must or should be. Which is to say, we can begin to make a logic in which epistemic, alethic, boulomaic and deontic positions are structurally self-evident, a formal logic which fits the actual logic of actual reason and renders the dynamics less easily disguised--a distinct necessity where the conflation of epistemic and alethic positions is a demonstrably persistent problem.

In sum, I see this as essential, necessary--in the good old-fashioned sense of requisite. Our notion of truth is inadequate to the task. It is a time for a revision. Being far from au fait on the current state of academic philosophy, I may of course be simply reinventing the wheel here, or performing the philosophical equivalent of outsider art, but so it goes. If one throws oneself into a seven thousand word essay on epistemology, one does it as much as anything simply to work through one's own ideas. If nothing else, some of the core ideas here are the underpinnings of a conceit in a novella I've been working on for a while, set on a future Mars where notions of the soul or the sign have been rendered obsolete by the notion of stance, where every moment in time is to be considered in terms of stint, span and shift. When one sets out to invent a workable fictional future philosophy, it seems, one rather ends up committing philosophy. So, I appear to be calling for a wholesale reconstruction of our notions of time and truth.

Well, I suppose I'm never one to do things by halves.