In his 1818 preface to Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Arthur Schopenhauer told readers that his whole book was really ‘a single thought,’ which he could find no shorter way of imparting. Despite the linear order imposed by the book format, the real order connecting the parts was ‘organic’:
every part supports the whole just as much as it is supported by the whole; a connexion in which no part is first and no part last, in which the whole gains in clearness from every part, and even the smallest part cannot be fully understood until the whole has been first understood.’
— Schopenhauer (1859, xii)
His advice to the reader, therefore, was to read the book twice. My advice to the Ideal Reader of Turning Signs is to take the whole thought of the Obverse as context for every point to be presented on the Reverse (and here in the Universe).
Here we have another turn of the hermeneutic circle. But if the ‘single thought’ of the book cannot be expressed in a single sentence, or indeed in any shorter form than the book itself, how can any actual reader see it as a single thought? Can you really see it all at once? This question applies to the meaning cycle in all its guises, because it arises from the very nature of signs, which according to Peirce are of virtually unlimited size and complexity.
Giving to the word sign the full scope that reasonably belongs to it for logical purposes, a whole book is a sign; and a translation of it is a replica of the same sign. A whole literature is a sign.
— Peirce, EP2:303
Nor is the question limited in scope to books, or even to language in all its forms. Every sign is ‘connected with the “Truth,” i.e. the entire Universe of being’ (Peirce, EP2:303). A complete and explicit model of the connections would take up no less meaning space than that Universe itself, ‘perfused with signs.’ But a model working implicitly can be represented by the smallest possible sign, which will then show simply the wholeness of the “Truth.”
A thing may be said to be wherever it acts; but the notion that a particle is absolutely present in one part of space and absolutely absent from all the rest of space is devoid of all foundation.
— Peirce (CP 1.38, c. 1890)
According to Swimme and Berry (1992, 28),
to speak of a proton as a separate particle restricted to a certain patch of space-time is to speak of its microphase mode of being, a valid though limited understanding. The macrophase mode or presence of the proton includes all particles with which it is correlated, which includes all those particles it has interacted with at any time in the past. Since the universe bloomed from a seed point, this means that a full understanding of a proton requires a full understanding of the universe. The fireball manifests itself as a quintillion separate particles and their interactions, but the nature of each of these particles speaks of the universe as indivisible whole. No part of the present can be isolated from any other part of the present or the past or the future.
The shorter the scripture, the more it says to the deep reader. For instance the very compactness of the Sefer Yetzirah contributed greatly to its seminal nature as the primary source of so much Kabbalistic symbolism. ‘Everyone found in the book more or less what he was looking for,’ as Scholem (1962, 34) says. Likewise you can find your turning symbol in the fragments of Heraclitus, the Tao Te Ching, the Gospel of Thomas, or Dogen’s ‘GenjoKoan’, if you read them recreatively.
For Thomas Traherne it was the Cross: ‘There may we see the most Distant Things in Eternity united: all Mysteries at once couched together and Explained’ (First Century 58). The Cross is, of course, the point of Crossing, or of fixation or final determination – or, as the icon of extension, the monad pulled in the four directions at once, the point turned inside out.
How do we get to the point in the empirical sciences?
Every test of a theory, whether resulting in its corroboration or falsification, must stop at some basic statement or other which we decide to accept. If we do not come to any decision, and do not accept some basic statement or other, then the test will have led nowhere. But considered from a logical point of view, the situation is never such that it compels us to stop at this particular basic statement rather than that, or else give up the test altogether. For any basic statement can again in its turn be subjected to tests, using as a touchstone any of the basic statements which can be deduced from it with the help of some theory, either the one under test, or another. This procedure has no natural end. Thus if the test is to lead us anywhere, nothing remains but to stop at some point or other and say that we are satisfied, for the time being.
— Popper (1934/1959, 86)
Dogen’s Genjokoan (‘Actualizing the Fundamental Point’) is Peirce’s phaneron.
It contains past and present, the three worlds, the ten directions, delusions, enlightenment, all buddhas, sentient beings, birth, and death.
— Nishiari Bokusan (Weitsman, Wenger and Okumura 2011, 12)
The Firstness of the phaneron is punctuated by its Secondness, while the two are married and mediated by its Thirdness. These elements of the phaneron do not obstruct one another as they collude in composing the interbeing of all phenomena.