C:\B\BLOB\Cat\actual metaph.wpd May 9, 2000

Matjaž Potrč



Blobjectivism is committed to actualism because of blob's characteristic of being just one spatio-temporal entity. This means that only blob exists. There are no entities in the blob or besides to it, as also there are no times and spaces. However, this does not preclude talk about people, trees, chairs, spaces, and moments, past and future. Those are all aspects or metaphors of the only one entity blob. Those aspects or metaphors capture real properties of the blob in its rich and intertwined variability. So in asserting something about those unreal entities, we are often asserting something correctly about the blob, only that we are asserting this about blob in a rather indirect manner. As we talk about impossible objects or about fiction, we are still asserting something about the blob, but in a second degree of indirectness. Literature and poetry in their mastering of metaphors are delivering to us insights about the blob's truth - confirming thereby that the nature of blob's essence is to show itself in a highly indirect manner.

I. Metaphor and indirect correspondence

Metaphor is important for blobjectivism because of its link with indirect correspondence. A typical metaphor will assert something about an object, but not by referring to this object in a direct manner. Rather, a metaphor usually captures some real aspects of an object in an indirect manner. If I use the metaphor that John is a lion, wishing to assert thereby that John is an unchallenged fighter in the jungle world of the economic and finance, I thereby attribute a real property to John, a property that is rooted in real transactions succeeding in the world. Whatever the property captures is highly complex and scattered in various transformations throughout time and space. But it is obvious that by the use of the metaphor, I do not attribute this property directly to John. I do this in a rather indirect manner. If I would speak more directly, I would say that "John is an unchallenged fighter in the jungle world of the economic and finance". Well, this would be more direct for sure than saying that John is lion. But even in this wording still many metaphorical expressions will remain. "Fighter" and "jungle" are certainly words that are used metaphorically. But people who better than average know the matters mentioned in the metaphor, namely economists, will probably agree that also "economic" and "finance" are expressions that are used in a metaphorical manner here. Still other people will perhaps agree that even the expression "John" is used metaphorically, for it covers some highly dynamic and changeable reality, a reality though which comes with some relative continuity and identity. But this is not to say that metaphors, if there are plenty of them, do not have any relation or any connection to the world. Metaphor attributing the property of being lion to John corresponds to a real property in the world that it picks out, a real characteristics of John's. But it refers to this real characteristics - one has to admit it - rather indirectly.

Basic axiom of blobjectivism is that there exists just one real spatio temporal object out there, namely the blob or the world. This object is immensely complex and dynamic, as it is not hard to understand. Namely, if the richness we are encountering every day around us, and the richness in the universe in general, is all happening in one single world, then this one world has to be complex and dynamic. It is also not hard to understand that the complexity of the world we live in cannot be exhaustively described by any tractable procedures. There is just too much going on in the world out there. But we may, and we do indeed get hooked to some partial aspects of reality of the world, particularly to those aspects that are of importance for us in various ways. So we concentrate on some partial aspects of reality. If I say The cup of tea is on the table I am gathering some important aspects of the situation whose complexity may be described at several different levels, such as levels of atoms and quarks, but also at many other levels. So it is useful not to take account of all the complexity inhering to reality. In its all encompassing way, this is also not humanly possible. Human cognition is designed to deal with partial matters and with ever particular problems. So, better than to aim at the whole blob, it is much more useful to concentrate at some local and partial but important aspect of it. Our cognition and language are configured in such a way that they best capture some partial but important local aspects of reality. Now this also means that we cannot refer to blob in a direct manner unless conditions of reference are extremely particular. We usually speak about the world as the whole of the universe only in rather special, contextually strictly determined cases, such as that of a philosophical seminar or again of a scientific discussions in physics. These are settings where people sometimes deal with, or are referring to, the whole of the universe and not just to the world's local aspects. But such occasions occur fairly rarely.

In a similar way that we are referring to some real property of John's with the use of a metaphor comparing John to lion, we are also asserting something correctly about the blob as we are stating that there is John over there. According to blobjectivism namely, there are no parts in the blob. There is just one blob characterized by rich variability and dynamics. So if we affirm the existence of John, we cannot really refer to John, because in reality there is no John around. If John would exist, then we would have another entity in the world, besides to the blob. But according to the fundamental blobjectivist axiom, there can only exist one object, the blob. Although John does not really exist by the premisses of blobjectivism, by affirming the existence of John, we do refer to something - namely to the blob, to the world. We do not refer to blob in a direct manner however in such cases. We refer to blob rather indirectly as we are speaking about John. But still we are picking up a real local property of the blob as we target John. As we are picking this property rather indirectly in respect to the blob, we may in general speak about indirect correspondence here. The indirect correspondence succeeds in respect to the blob. Or we may also say that we use metaphors which point to the real local aspects of the blob.


An ineresting question to be asked in respect to blobjectivism is whether it is compatible with actualism. First, we have to get acquainted with actualism in a broad outline. Then we may inquire wether blobjectivism should be seen as being actualist and why it should be seen as actualist, if the answer to this question is affirmative. Actualism denies the existence of fictional objects, but stays with their virtues.

A. What is actualism

Actualism is the view according to which all that exists is actual. From actualist perspective thus, the non-actual entities, say possible and other kind of entities and objects cannot be granted existence.

One may think that a necessary consequence of adopting the view of actualism is embarking on the reduction or on a paraphrase of possible and other kind of non-actual objects to whatever is merely actual.

But reductionism is not the only possible view that an actualist may go for. And neither is paraphrase the actualist's only strategy to treat possibilia in an appropriate manner. Instead of embracing reductionism, we may go for nonreductionist strategy. We may treat possibilia and other entities of the mentioned kind as unreal, irreal. And if we do not reduce the entities we talk about, we may claim irrealism to be preservative. In a way, possibilia and other non-actual entities are then preserved, although they are treated as not being real.

B.Why blobjectivism has to be actualist

Blobjectivism has to be actualist. The basic claim of blobjectivism is that there is just one object. But this then means that there are no additional objects, and this includes no additional nonexistent objects or objects of some similar kind, such as possible or future objects. An argument for the need of a blobjectivist to stick to actualism is as follows. The blobjectivist will either immediately go for just one object, the blob. In this case as per definition she will not be able to accept any other objects. As the blobject is spatio temporal, it is actual. But nothing else as one actual object will be admitted into ontology. The other possibility for the blobjectivist is that she will admit some kind of existence for nonexistent objects. But if she wishes to stay blobjectivist, then as consequence of her view she will be forced to embrace nonreductionist and contextualist interpretation of these additional objects (such as nonexistent objects). Only in this way namely will she be able to stay with just one real actual object. The upshot will be that the additional objects (such as possibilia) do not exist as real OBJECTS, i.e. that they really do not exit at all. But still something may be correctly asserted about them, i.e. truth as indirect correspondence is still possible. So whatever strategy is taken, either going straight for just one object, or also admitting additional objects but then admit their irreality in order to stay compatible with her fundamental views - the blobjectivist will have to stay actualist.

C.Why sticking to actualism does not deny the virtues of fictional objects, although it denies their existence.

The idea here is as follows. Blobjectivism does not allow for the existence of fictional objects, as also not for any kind of separately existing objects besides to the blob. But this does not mean that blobjectivism has to reject virtues of these nonexistent objects. Fictional objects tell us some important and deep truths about how blobject may be referred to. Why is this the case? It has to be stressed again that although the existence of fictional objects may not be admitted, we may still assert something correct about them, i.e. truth. But as we are asserting something correctly or true about fictional objects, we use mechanisms of indirectness in this assertion. Similar mechanisms are also employed in the usual manners in which we employ indirect correspondence to refer to the world. So mechanisms that produce fictional objects are close to the mechanisms which in an indirect manner produce objects. So it is to be expected that something may be revealed about how the world is and how it comes about - by being attentive to the litterature. This is even more understandable because mechanisms of indirect correspondence, such as used by metaphors, are far more obvious in the literature and fiction as in other variants of talk. If we stay with actualism we do not thereby deny the revealing of mechanisms of indirect correspondence to fictional objects. Although we do not admit for the existence of fictional objecs - for this would go directly against the requirement that there should exist just one object.

III. Time and timely aspects of blob

Another challenge for an actualist is time. If actualist commits herself to the existence of blob - does this mean that she is committed to the existence of the actual blob only, and not to the future blob or to the past blob? Are there many worlds, perhaps so that a world is paired with every past moment? Then these are past worlds, which means that they are a multiplicity of past objects. But as according to one understanding the past objects are not real, this would then surely go against actualism. What about the future worlds then, each of them paired with one future moment? And what about various ways the world may develop, which will not come to a realisation? We are facing an increasing proliferation of objects, many of them possible objects, that cannot be actual.

This proliferation of objects is in patent contrast with actualism. But how can an actualist account for the past and for the future, about which we have many testifyings and experiences?

Here as well, contextualism is of extreme importance. We can assert something correctly about the world in its past and even in its future. We do not go on reducing assertions about the past and assertions about the future to assertions about the actually existing blob, about the blob existing in this moment now. Contextualism is important here in order to account for true assertions about the blob. But it does not give an answer to another pressing question, namely that somehow we feel how the past, although it is not here anymore, is somehow a part of the world we live in, similarly as it also seems to be the case with the future. But how to account for this reality of the past and of the future all in sticking with the actualist credo?

A blobjectivist namely recognizes the existence of the actual blob only, the blob existing now and here - if she is an actualist as well. But she must be an actualist, for otherwise she will get involved with all sorts of possible, nonexistent and other kinds of unusual objects. This would be then incompatible with blobjectivism which affirms the existence of just one spatio-temporal entity. So a blobjectivist does not think that there are non-actual objects. There IS finally just blob existing now and here. But true assertions concerning the blob's past and future are possible, under the variable standards of indirect correspondence.

But as it was already mentioned, it would be also desirable to account for the ontological reality of past and of the future at some level of description. This is given by the possibility to look at the blob as one continuous time-spatial entity. This is well compatible with the fundamental axiom of blobjectivism, namely that there exists just one entity out there. If we go for this, then past and future must be integrated into the blob. But they cannot be the parts of blob, because of the same requirement of blobjectivism that allows for the existence of one object only. But if past and future are not parts of the blob, and if they are integrated into it nevertheless, it is hard to see what else could they be as the blob's aspects. In this case then, the past is just an aspect of blob, as also the future is just another aspect of blob. It is also understandable that these aspects, if taken coarse grainedly, will have to allow for a zoom discovering richness and variation in them. But the important thing is that, seeing past and future as integrated aspects of the blob, the blob will remain one entity, extended continuously through time and space. This view may sound odd at first sight, but a second thought will show its plausibility, and first its compatibility with the views of modern physiscs. Besides to this, the advantage is that blob, seen under this perspective, is not restricted to some quasi-tractable actuality such as it could be presented in the timely NOW. The point is that now also includes past and the future. So blobjectivism is close to some Indian philosophy perhaps in this, if Indian philosophy should commit itself to the view that the future and the past are really present in the actuality of time. If the past and the future are present in the actuality of the time though, this does not mean that the the actual moment has a punctual tractable special position and value. On the other hand, even if we allow a special status for the actual time, the past and the future will be acknowledged as correctly assertible, and this means as true, by being indirect in respect to actuality.

The trick is not to go into the trap of affirming the idealized time of presence. One can well understand that it is somehow simple to divide time into surveyable punctual moments. But our experience shows, and this is probably due to the nature of the underlying ontological reality, that the actual time is intertwined with the past and with the future. In the actual moment, i.e. in the moment now, there are seeds of the future and there is the experience of the past. One cannot easily separate the past and the future from the actual moment now. And this also means, on the other hand, that the actual moment now cannot be plausibly tractably separated from the past and from the future. Contextually and ontologically, the past and the future are rather indirect. All in being indirect though, they do not give any particular tractable status to the present and to the now. The tendency to isolate the discrete now and present is rooted in the cognitive and linguistic mechanisms that tend to focus on the simple and surveyable aspects of the blob. But what is more surveyable and simple than one and now, here? Many attempts in philosophy started with the surveyable and with the present. This is the place of the indexical and of the demonstrative, ever wishing to capture the unity of time and place. But indexical and demonstrative - unhappily for those attempts - also turn out to be paradigmatic cases of the contextualism's involvement. The trials to pinpoint units of time and space reveal their contextual embedding and lack of any clear borders, thus vagueness of such presupposedly discrete entities. Metaphorical mechanisms, on the other hand, from which one would expect to build the pinnacle of contextual involvement, unexpectedly push towards the singularity and discretness of aspects, and towards cognitive capturing of discrete elements, including bodies and moments. We have to change the perspective. As blobjectivists we start with the richly dynamical and continuous one blob, on the real basis of which, by the mechanism of metaphor, we capture single discrete unities. From blobjectivist perspective we see now however that these unities are just so many aspects of the blob, captured by the help of language and thought.

Let us turn back now to tensed matters. There are thus several possible options as related to the actualist blobjectivism in respect to time. The first option is to acknowledge just the actual moment now. But there are problems with delineating the moment now (vagueness and other problems), so we must acknowlwedge some intertwinning of presence with the past and with the future. Past and future are intertwined with now in such a sense that they are also going against the tractable understanding of the present moment.

The present moment has thus no special priority in this approach, because (in Aristotelian terms) it is just the limit of continuum. But continuum here is not meant to be a tractable feature. There is no special separate entity in this sense. There is just one object, the blob. But continuum is recognizable in blob and may even be asserted about the blob in a highly indirect manner. So there is a continuum in the blob, to be recognized in an indirect manner. Is there REALLY a border or a limit in the blob? No. But is there a border or limit in the blob? Yes, of course it is. This is the indirect strategy of recognizing the variability of the blob. There is no contradiction here, for contextual pressures have changed. Some of the indirectly recognized variability is timely. So tenses and times are indirect features of the blob.

Tenses are thus to be recognized as indirect features of the blob, as itsaspects. But if times are actually aspects, then times such as past and future are metaphors of the blob. They are just several ways of how to approach the innumerable real features and congealings of blob. It is strange though that the past and the future are so intertwined in the present. This may look strange, however, just in the case one considers present to be a part, an independent limit. But there is no such independent part in the blob, because per assumption there is just one around here, without any parts. If in this sense we have an intertwinning of the future and of the past in the so-called actual present moment, then there is no moment-now around as an independent entity. Nevertheless, under various contextually attuned standards, we can talk about moments, about present, past and the future referring thereby to blob and to aspects of it in a highly indirect manner.

So there are really numerous aspects of blob, simply because blob is an immensely rich entity. And those aspects include timely and spatially attuned posits. Timely attuned posits are past, present moment and future, but also moments in the past and moments in the future. Spatial posits are chairs, people and trees. But even space and temporality cannot be completely separated. Because we can speak of people as perduring in time, and we assert something true, i.e. correct thereby. The strange feeling that there is this intertwinning comes from our ultimately metaphiscially false beliefs that there in reality exist separate entities such as times and individuals. But they are interconnected. (This is perhaps close to some thought to this effect by Brentano and by Heidegger.) The strangeness comes from the fact that the direct access to the blob is precluded in most cases. It is not important for us (just another kind of congealings of blob) to have direct access to blob. The main access for us is local, and everything is set out in our cognitive system in such a way that we remain at the level of locality, that we do not get directly involved with the Ding an sich.

IV. Metaphor, poetry and literature

Considering the indirect nature of blob, and the fact that per definition it is one, it is understandable that blob will not show itself in its entirety except on rare and exceptional occasions, where it is approproiate to talk about blob as such. These are occasions when we are talking about the world in a philosophical seminar. And again we may happen to talk about the world or the universe as such when we are dealing with the world in the realm of physics.

On other occasions -- and these are around in most of cases, we are referring to the blob rather indirectly. So we have to do with local congealings or aspects of the blob in most of cases and situations of our lives.

As we talk about past moments and events, we are not actually referring to any REALLY existing ENTITIES in the world, but we are mentioning just aspects, real aspects of the blob. So we are talking about the blob in some highly indirect, i.e. metaphorical way as we are talking about chairs and times, and about past moments.

The blob, in usual circumstances, does not reveal itself to us directly, but rather indirectly. In accordance to this, it is understandable that the revealing of blob happens in best ways in poetry and in literature, whose task is mastering of metaphors. The metaphors of the blob as revealed in literature and particularly in poetry do reveal truth about the blob, buth they do reveal it in a highly indirect, metaphorical manner. This metaphorical approach is the only one that is able to disclose the truth about blob however.

Poetry and literature are not useful in the sense of utilitarism. They are use-less. But truth about blob is designed to be useless as well. This is in counterdistinction with the quasi-direct talk of everyday (you hear some echo of Sein und Zeit here), which has the appearance to be useful, and it is also useful in the context of everyday transactions. These everyday transactions are local. So they cannot reveal the truth about blob as such, as it is.

V. Fictional entities

One problem for the actualist are finctional and impossible entities, such as Sherlock Holmes and squared circle. How can an actualist deal with those? The answer is that she should not presuppose their independent existence as entities, for the reason that per definition a blobjectivist should allow for the existence of just one entity. But fictional entities share the same mechanisms of positing as does the talk about people, chairs and trees. Talking about a tree, I am ascribing some property to the blob, a real property of blob, some sort of its aspect or congealing. I am ascribing this in an indirect manner though, because entities in question do not exist at al as separate entities. Rather they exist only metaphorically. But this metaphorical existence of the supposed entities (people, trees, chairs) is not revealed by the talk in a direct manner. There is illusion here that there are separate entities around. But this is wrong. In poetry and literature this indirectness is revealed, for it is an indirectness to the second degree. Thus there is still some relation to the blob, but this relation is rather indirect. If we talk about impossible objects such as the square circle, we are still referring to the blob ultimately, but now really in an extremely indirect manner. So, similarly as there are no separate entities around, there are also not any fictional and impossible entities around. But some talk about them may still be true, if considered in a contextual manner.