It is an interesting thought that while we all appear to possess some degree of free will and self-determination, and beyond the intractable differences of a diversity of philosopical (and, let’s face it – political) thought on the matter, much of our mental lives are shaped and patterned by the contexts that we find ourselves in. Our place in cultural time and space provides the plausible spectrum and logical sense in which, through, and as, which we might express, assert or announce ourselves. Even such convoluted and complex concepts as this are products of a particular (moving) frame of cultural and cognitive reference which may have been largely insensible to an earlier era but occur as instances of this unfolding metamorphosis of logic, reference and semantic elasticity of our own time.
Those contexts of time and place that define or cultivate the possible vectors of choice and symbolic or conceptual motion are similarly bounded and shaped by that thing beyond, being the multitudinous swarm of individual humans that breathe life and living entropy into this complex. We are shaped by our world and we, en masse, simultaneously shape our world. There is some sense in which this mutual causation and profound interdependence of world and self (or selves) exists as a single, unified and notionally bounded, unified system. On either end of this continuum lies a partial truth that contains the incomplete seed of its own inversion, the negation of Other or difference through which self is defined and made intelligible.
You can only be who and what you are because you are incomplete. Your incompleteness is marked by the presence of an absence that is the abstraction that we come to intuitively consider as “the world”. The rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than this, though, because just as much as that which lies “beyond” you is the world, that which lies beyond the world is you, or strictly-speaking, it is us. In a very real sense, in as much as you and your experience, cognition, memory and sentient self-awareness are partial truths, the world is that inversion of you and it is the logical complement or opposite of you, of us. The interdependence is profound.
If self and world are taken as a whole or aspirationally unified system, it emerges that whether you start at individual (or particulate) or at global, gestalt – the result is always the same. Unity can only ever manifest as an absence or (self-) negation. This is also something of a diabolically clever method of ensuring systemic self-propagation. If that which lies beyond any sub-component of the whole system is that negation represented by the whole system itself, an endless, iterative and recombinatory dissonance and systemic discontinuity is invoked. The negation of the structured patterning of a system is that unknown essence and entropy which instils change and momentum into that system; and all interacting entities, artefacts and systems are engaged in this constant flow of information and entropy. It is a concise method of autonomous self-propagation where the primary entity of self-propagation is the underlying recursive logic itself.
As an aside – these kinds of discussions, definitions or explanations rapidly degenerate into drunken pirouettes of circularly hyperbolic rhetoric. The issue is not so much one a failure of concepts as it is a failure of language to convey intricate enigma in abbreviated threads of symbols; there may also be cognitive limits but I suspect that language does not fully encompass nor constrain the possible horizons of human imagination.
The entities and artefacts which are being constructed are subtle. Mathematical logic may have been a more appropriate vessel for this message of self-propagating, exponentiated recursion but I never learned that language beyond a certain rudimentary fluency in logic – regardless, mathematics will also possess its own mischievous limitations.
One day – I will find the right words.