Exploring particularity

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We have not yet succeeded in isolating an entity from other entities in such a way that what is isolated is utterly separate. Possibilities of mutual affect always remain. (I know of no way of shielding against the effects of gravity, for example.) Thus, it seems fair to think about every given entity as a particular perspective on the universe, a lens through which to view anything.

For some time I’ve been thinking about what it means for something to be particular. What does it mean to have a specific shape, specific qualities, and specific boundaries in space and time? Why are objects in front of me as they are, now and here, instead of being boundless and universal? What is the ultimate origin of a specific characteristic?

The concrete forms of biological life are the result of random mutations and selection, according to current theory. The shapes and concepts of geometry and mathematics more or less follow from physics. (Some take this to mean that they are given to us by the universe – I hold that they are highly anthropomorphic). Let it remain open-ended for now from where precisely particular forms originate.

Can we even experience the particular character of any given entity in full? Can we drink the well of particularity dry? It seems that most entities — human or non-human, biological or material — are not objects that can be fully described but rather loci, points of concentration of particularity, which we could always find new ways to approach. Moreover, we generally see what we expect to see. A truly novel perspective is extremely hard to construct. What we generally do is instead to slowly morph our existing perspectives into something new. Thus, an orange is initially understood as a strange kind of apple (or the other way around) and a sledge understood as a large hammer. Perspectives seem to evolve along the lines of a genealogical tree, much like species in nature.

Finally, what we see in an entity is not purely the entity itself, nor is it purely the perspective we have chosen to apply to it. Rather it would be a co-production between the perspective and the entity. Clearly this depends both on me as an observer and on the entity in the world; something that does not depend on me can be taken away, and then the experience of the orange disappears. But the particular qualities of the experience of the orange depend mostly on me.  And perhaps the most salient, most interesting qualities depend on those conflict zones where the external world clashes with the understanding I have chosen to impose on the orange. Here the understanding flickers, the veil that I have thrown over the incomprehensible noise beneath flutters seductively. Here the possibilities of novelty dwell.

Category: Bioinformatics, Philosophy One comment »

One Response to “Exploring particularity”

  1. Monomorphic - The inexhaustible wealth of appearance, information and specificity

    […] and experiences that do not fit the general concept of a chair. Call this the chair’s particularity. It may be unusually sturdy or rickety. It may evoke a sense of sorrow or longing for a person who […]


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