For certain reasons, this is something of a follow-up to an earlier article, Interconnectness, in which I quoted myself from December of 1987 as saying,

I came to think that if one understood the law of contradiction, there would be nothing left to understand.

I am going to quote now the person I quote the most, Collingwood, from the fourth paragraph from the end of Religion and Philosophy:

Uniformity, in a word, is relative to our needs; and to suggest that a game of cricket, for instance, would be impossible if we supposed that the ball might suddenly decide to fly to the moon, is no less and no more sensible than to suggest that it is impossible because the bowler might put it in his pocket and walk off the field. We know that the friend we trust is abstractly capable, if he wished, of betraying us, but that does not prevent our trusting him. It may be that our faith in the uniformity of matter is less removed from such a trust than we sometimes imagine. Whether we describe it as faith in matter or faith in God makes, after all we have said, little difference.

For me, mathematics may be a refuge from troubles; and perhaps Collingwood’s word “uniformity” describes what makes mathematics a refuge. For others, the science of the material world might be a refuge. Why should a refuge be needed? Collingwood refers to the abstract possibility of betrayal by a human friend. Sometimes this betrayal becomes concrete. By Collingwood’s argument then, there is no reason not to expect such betrayal from the material world. Ultimately there is no tenable distinction between mind and matter.

It is a theme, perhaps modified, of Collingwood’s later thought. For reasons that I do not recall clearly now, I recently worked through the last part of his Essay on Metaphysics. I digitized his text and make it into a LaTeX document, to which I could add footnotes according to my understanding (or lack of understanding). Collingwood’s subject in the document is causation—or necessitation, inducement, such things. The whole notion of causation derives from the human experience whereby one of us can cause another one of us to do something. As a reader of his contemporaries Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Collingwood gives murder as an example. One person may cause another person to kill a third person. The killer is still responsible, but the first person shares the responsibility.

There is perhaps no need for such a physically violent example. We are all the time causing one another to do things—to be things. It may be something good or benign; it may be devastating. I do not know what to do about it then, except possibly to recall the last words of Sartre’s No Exit. Time does not heal all wounds; but it may dilute the poison.

2 Trackbacks

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  2. By The Istanbul Seaside « Polytropy on September 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

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