The classy doctrine of duality, expounded by Sri Madhvacárya [1238-1317 CE], the proponent supreme of the Dvaita [Dualistic] School of Indian philosophy, is based on the doctrine of analyses, including the canon of reason. It lays emphasis on the multiple character of ultimate reality, where matter, time and space are all recognised as in[ter]dependent entities.
Its principal thrust, apparently, is keyed to the palpable conception of atoms, where all atoms have taste, colour, smell, and touch: one that also alludes, most notably, to the fact that atoms may differ in their qualitative structure. To draw an example: air has just one attribute: touch; while fire has two: touch and colour; water has three: touch, colour, and taste; and, Earth has all four, including smell.
A certain disposition for reflection in repeated branching, or dualities, rests deeply within human nature itself. As the Greek philosopher Protagoras [490-420 BC] said, “There are two sides to every question, exactly opposite to each other.” Add to it the supplementary dimension of human predilection, and you have a sublime prospect in hand: of corporeal adaptability, and its resultant possibility, for surmounting such fundamental shortcomings through knowledge.
Let’s now take a look at the context with a tint of divergence — or, fluid construct. Most altruistic individuals, with a few exceptions, don’t have much respect, unlike scientists, or technologists, for using pictorial representation in their oration. It is not that they don’t appreciate the fact that the written and the spoken language, be it English or any other language, is different. That a select few can read well in public also makes them different: to conveniently mock at the darkness in the auditorium even before they begin their ‘salvo’ with words, not pictures and/or illustrations.
This only explains why most archetypes spin an exceptionally cogent cusp between art and science with a common ground for tangible artistic innovation, aside from the scholastic probity of combined nourishment for all types of human creativity. They generally motivate accordance for a collective strut. It needs to be, therefore, understood that both dominions face opposition in education. If only art and science could join hands for common methods in thinking, innovation, and historical achievement — rather than emphasising on our disparate substrates and trying to profit from the differences in playing a cipher-aggregate game at the other’s expense — we might truly dangle together rather than hover individually.
There are a number of examples of innovators, referred to as ‘artists,’ who used the tools of their trade to make discoveries that had eluded official ‘scientists’ within their own parochial world. In the 18th century, the Dutch artist Camper, for example, established rules for depicting characteristic differences in the physiognomies of human groups — after he noticed that most Renaissance paintings of the Three Kings had illustrated Balthazar, the black magus, as a European painted dark, rather than a native of sub-Saharan Africa. Reason: European artists could find few African models at the time.
At the beginning of the last century, the celebrated American artist and amateur ornithologist A H Thayer, for instance, discovered the adaptive value of counter-shading for making a three-dimensional object descend into invisibility because counter-shaded organisms often seem[ed] totally flat, or two-dimensional, against their background. It’s a solution that had eluded scientists. Interestingly, however, it seemed starkly clear to one intrepid artist who had spent his life promoting the opposite illusion of making flat paintings look three-dimensional.
It would also be interesting to note that we are always in awe with the grandeur and immensity of our Universe — in spite of the fact that we sometimes tend to forget that it is made bit by bit, through apparently not-so-significant interactions. Call it leela, the never-ending divine play, in which all of us, stars, microbes, leaves, mountains, space, the Homo sapiens etc., are both dancers and the dance, or what you may, one inescapable fact endures — the interconnectedness of things, a unity of a vast multiplicity.
The concept of interconnectedness also extends to the human body: the mind has consciousness; the body being simply matter in motion, even though the two may not be distinct. Because, it’s the mind that moves? To illustrate the idea with an Eastern aphorism:
“Is it the flag that moves, or is it the wind that moves?”
“No,” answers the Zen Master,
“It is the mind that moves.”
Consciousness, as scholar-physicist, Evan Harris Walker, explained, is something that exists in its own identity. It may, therefore, be construed that it is quite distinct from all other objects, processes, energies, and even realities, the physics of science would reveal. More so, because, physicists do not mean anything that constitutes the substance — and, what is meant by the term, ‘consciousness.’ It is a complex idea, yes, and one that is best grappled with the comprehension of our Zen mind — more so, with our analytical brains just before the endeavour to achieve such abstraction goes beyond our mental capabilities.
What about knowledge per se — or, understanding? Sri Madhvacárya, for one, to use a classical premise, thought of knowledge as being relative, not absolute. In so doing, he spurned the Universal as a natural consequence: of a principal sense of belief, or the uniqueness of a particular person, or a thing. To know a thing, said Sri Madhvacárya, is to know it as distinct from all others in the general sense, and from some in a specific way. Mere appearance, Sri Madhvacárya also related, wasn’t reality, while objective experience was. It’s a theme song that Immanuel Kant espoused — much later. This was not all. Sri Madhvacárya also maintained the simple fact that things are transient and ever-changing does not mean they are not real. And, so he opined: every new relation changes, or modifies, the substance to some extent; greater in some, less in others.
To take a dekko at yet another construct — language as a metaphor. Language, it need not be over-emphasised, arises from our frame of reference: of how we position what we want to communicate. The deduction is obvious. If our chassis of referral is to become more efficient, our language needs to reflect that — like a mirror. In the past, the matrix of reference was that of a presumed, objective, and pre-existent reality. It also reflected and imitated such a reality; and, even duality. Language today is being increasingly characterised by a resolute emphasis on rethinking — of its nature, role, and function.
There is also more to language than what meets the eye, ear, or mind. If Aristotle, to cull a classical exemplar, reduced language to its essences and a whole new possibility for the power of idiom, Galileo, for one, made the distinction between primary and secondary qualities in language — one which had geometric properties with the other that did not. The rest is history, what with the likes of Descartes, Newton et al ‘masterminding’ some incredible ideas in comparison to their predecessors. This also brings us to a notable allegory: of today’s thought returning to early sources.
It is also, in sum, a perfect illustration of duality as a wide postulate, or cosmological scheme, for the emergence of our world, and the word — as we know them now — as reality.