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  What’s the difference?
divining differences, part 4 of 5
gary e. davis
April 23, 2017

Suddenly faced with dense phenomenality—a profusion calling for differentiation— he wondered “Why the calling?”

You’ll be glad to know that Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged online lists 17 synonyms for ‘nebulous’—a nebulosity of being nebulous. Oh, but add the 77 “related” words and we get 94 flavors of nebulaeity.

Humans are so diverse in their hues of proximal discernment—of wanting clarity or resolution. We’ve evolved a cornucopia of need for differentiation. Let me order the ways.

The 17 seemed to me to gravitate toward five kinds of wanting differentiation (or differential interest). As I added each of the 77 related tropes, expecting to expand my taxonomy of differential interests beyond five, I felt that five covered it: Nebulosity is...

  • psychal (including mythical tropes—which might also be considered interpersonal)
  • interpersonal
  • cognitive
  • conceptual
  • semantic

I’ll include the synonyms in a moment (but not bother with the “related” words). The synonyms provide a regional (or conceptual) sense of each kind of interest, in terms of senses of nebulous.

But first, a short explication of my term ‘psychal’. I prefer to not use ‘psychic’ as adjective for that which pertains to mentality or mind, and there’s no functional reason why we write ‘psychological’ rather than ‘psychalogical’, when actually it’s phonetically common to pronounce the former as if the latter spelling was standard.

When we refer to ontogeny, there’s nothing especially urgent or valid about ‘onto-’ apart from an etymological inheritance that’s ultimately arbitrary. Psychalogical development—psychageny—vitally depends on categorial and conceptual development, but weighting that toward the conceptual (ontogeny) tends to occlude the importance of singular (individual) repertoires of interests, values, engagements, and historicity of experience which are altogether integral (how so?) to self identity (or selfidentity, I commonly write privately, avoiding the recursive overtone of the hyphen for a notion that is self referential, not especially self-referential). But I use ‘ontogeny’ because it’s immediately cogent and there are philosophical reasons that I’ll discuss elsewhere (and have mentioned earlier, somewhere, I’m sure; but I don’t recall where).

Associating what’s mythic with psychality has good reason beyond the scope of the present discussion, but briefly: Phenomenological panpsychism is familiar to studies in cultural evolution, and recently interesting to theorists of mind, which appeal to me.

I would elsewhere argue that individuation shows psychagenic priority or primacy of psychality over interpersonal relations, first in the sense that an infant’s all-Self sense of being (clinically well-corroborated) gains capability to distinguish other from Self (which I capitalize because I would distinguish primal Selfality from a conceptually coherent sense of self identity—congruent with how adult selves may find Self showing as aspects of the other which have been displaced, which clinical interaction mirrors overtly at apt times). The ability to distinguish other from selfidentity is a primordial kind of differentiation, apart from cognitive differentiation, because the other/selfidentity differentiation expresses “investments” of self relativities which precede object differentiations. Prior to other/Self differentiability, “objects” are regarded as parts of Self; and after other/self differentiation, objects are regarded as other “persons” (personifications that “exist” in differential relativity to oneself). Distinguishing others (persons) from objects (lacking intentionality—though battery-operated things are regarded as personifications) happens after other/Self differentiation is consolidated. I would argue (will argue, in evidentiary terms); I’m not proffering a Just-So story.

So, interpersonal relations in psychageny precede especially-cognitive relations. It’s a mistake to regard all mental representations as cognitive. Ascriptions of cognitivity commonly confuse the difference between mental representation (which pertains to all modes of intelligence) and epistemically relevant representation. Accordingly, I call interpersonal relations cognative because relationship prevails over other/selfidentity difference; whereas, in cognitive relations, the elements of the relationship (self to object) prevail over—assemble, comprise—the relationship of self and object. In cognative relations, the inter-ness instills the difference between other and self.

This can become very obscure clinically (symptomatically), but elaborating my clinical mention above, in brief here: Most of oneSelf is nonconscious (which is not that same as unconscious). Fullness of Self is partially recognized as selfidentity. When parts of Self become excluded (due to unmanageable feelings) and the exclusion is forgotten (suppressed), impositions of Self may become disowned in terms of posited aspects of others that are kept displaced. When clinicians indicate “self/object” relations, they’re referring to Self/other confusions showing as disownment/displacement of a part of Self as if belonging to the other, making the other, in effect, an object “baggaged” with disowned parts of Self.

In normal psychageny, interpersonal features precede especially-cognitive ones. Then, as experience becomes the basis for folk types of experience (cognative and cognitive), consolidations happen “under” concepts or as conceptuality implied by there being whatever. The pet named Fido is an instance (token) of a dog (type). The conceptuality of this (emergent capability to group or region type-ally) precedes linguistic mastery, since it pertains to intelligence generally (which research on concepts in mental science shows—which I will document).

Therefore, my sequence of five improvised types of nebulosity—an improvisation with an unabridged dictionary definition—expresses my “bias” for a sense of psychagenic sequence (or temporal containment) that the five vaguely render.

One can usefully quibble about whether a given synonym of ‘nebulous’ is better associated with one interest rather than another (thus evincing an ambiguity of better belonging or association), but the five interests—regions of interest—can be regarded as clearly distinct for good reason. But importantly, whether a given phenomenon pertains to one type of interest more than another—or rather than another—places the phenomenality of nebulosity (or nebulaeity?) in a meta-ambiguity or aura-ity (aurity? not aurality) that may be employed to dramatize the liminality of self and other (or object as other, in personification—distinct from symptomatic other as object, mentioned above) in generative, creative processes. I know that this may seem confused, but this is because brevity breeds implausibility (or a sense of idiosyncrasy).

In any case, my regioning is good for my inquirial discussion here (which is open-mindedly invested in psychagenic interest). “That which regions” (me—recalling Heidegger regarding “Conversation on a country path”) here is a sensibility wedded to pathmaking where learning never ends, which is only possible relative to discerning where one is going. In other words, I’m prospecting.

  • psychal / mythic: dark, inscrutable, mysterious, occult, Delphic, mystic
  • interpersonal: double-edged, equivocal
  • cognitive: arcane, cryptic, enigmatic, murky, opaque
  • conceptual: deep, obscure
  • semantic: ambiguous, elliptical (or elliptic)

Commonly—or proximally—we think of nebulousness semantically.

Certainly, a more unusual sense of nebulosity is conceptual, which bears on one’s capability for comprehension, particularly in terms of what we know about (cognitive), which is more likely to come into question than the conceptuality which likely causes something cognitive to be regarded as nebulous. That is, we are more likely to suspect incomprehensibility of something that is actually merely lack of knowledge than to recognize an epistemic lack, though epistemic venturing would dissolve suspician of confused conceptuality (i.e., incomprehensibility).

Just as likely as cognitive roots of supposedly “conceptual” confusion is Self/other confusion (suspician that one is being deceived).

“Ultimately,” one suspects dark, mysterious intentions or arrangements which are confounding one’s need of clarity or resolution.

We see here a near-to-distant (psychagenically speaking) horizonality of nebulosity which mirrors the psychagenic depth of implicature in one’s construal (“or, at least, in Gary’s mind”), as if the background depths of oneself are more evoked the more that the psychagenic distance of the horizon comes into relevance—as if adult need is contained by teen need contained by the child contained by the infant.

But flourishing life enjoys desire over need. There’s little nebulosity in wanting. What’s desire, what’s need is usually easy to distinguish. A near-to-distant horizonality of appeal mirrors the high-individuative depth of entailment in one’s construal, as if the futural depths of oneself are more evoked the more that the scale of inquiry, imagination, and opportunity is active—as if each era of one’s life is contained by the potentials of the next contained by the appeal of leading minds contained by a happily nebulous sense of humanity.

So, phenomenal confusion can be about what’s “just semantics”; what’s really conceptual: what seems conceptual, but is actually cognitive or self/other confusion; or what piques one’s heart (arousing strong feeling)—or a mix. And “perpendicular” to that, callings of desire cultivate and mentor need.


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  Be fair. © 2017, gary e. davis