The Meaning of the Modalities


This essay will present metaphorical and connotative descriptions of the modalities. Although such general purpose descriptions of each of the modalities are inherently imprecise, they are helpful in gaining an initial understanding of the typical usage of each modality. These metaphors and common language descriptions can be used to gain deeper insight into the more abstract meanings and patterns of relationships inherent in each modality.

On the Refinement of Modality Semantics

Throughout most of the IDM metaphysics, these particular terms -- omniscient, immanent, transcendent -- are used in somewhat nonstandard ways. They each have special meanings and semantic qualities in addition to those more commonly assumed. Further, their usage is specific to their roles.

The terms for the three modalities were chosen from the whole of the English language due to the fact that these three words happen to have connotations fairly similar to those ultimately required by the Axioms. Because they are each 'semantically near' to the necessary meaning, they were 'borrowed' and then recast with new meanings.

This policy of using existing language terms and then recasting and refining their meanings has significant advantages, despite the inherent risk of additional confusion. Coining completely new terms would have made much of the IDM metaphysics more difficult to understand. By using terms which are near approximations to the required meanings, the reader may at least gain some initial understanding of what is intended by the author. Then, as understanding develops with additional exposure, the meanings of the modal terms will take on additional refinements.

To help dispel some of this potential confusion, this essay will consider the conventional usage and definitions of the three modality terms, (as found in most dictionaries), and compare these to their usage in the IDM metaphysics.

The Semantics of the Immanent Modality

Within common dictionaries, one may find these two definitions.

Immanent: As existing or remaining within.
As present throughout the universe.

Imminent: As about to occur; impending.

The term immanent as used within the IDM metaphysics takes something of the meaning of both of the terms 'immanent' and 'imminent' as defined above. In that the concepts of relation and interaction are inherent within all events, there is a strong correspondence to the conventional meaning of 'immanent'. To the degree that 'that which is of experience' (itself a process of interaction) involves an infinitely small duration of time, or is a reference to that which is in one's immediate experience in the here and now, the IDM use of the term immanent strongly corresponds to the meaning of 'imminent'.

The metaphysics adds to these conventional meanings the idea of the immanent as being a defining concept (i.e., as a basis of definition) when considered in the sense of being (i.e., as when used in theory), and as central when a part of a process (i.e., the action of doing).

The term immanent is often used to refer to that which is immediate and intrinsic in one's own perception or expression. The immanent reflects a sense of being within a world, as a participant, and of experiencing it directly in first person terms. The immanent modality is often used to connote the simplest possible concept of interaction or of relation between self and a world (i.e., either a dreaming or 'waking' world/reality). The idea of the basic "here and now experience" (or expression) between self and reality is generally regarded as immanent modal, the emphasis being upon the concepts of 'basic' and of the absolute immediacy of time.

The concept of the immanent often is used to refer to the center of a continuum, coordinate system, or transformation. Immanent descriptions start with what is most known, and move towards that which is most unknown (i.e., things that are very small or very far away). The quality of knowing (and of understanding) is itself often considered to be of an immanent modal character.

The Semantics of the Omniscient Modality

Within common dictionaries, one may find something similar to this definition for the term 'omniscient'.

Omniscient: As having total knowledge; knowing everything.
As a referent to the quality of having infinite knowledge.

The redefinition of the term 'omniscient' is consistent with the original meaning in that one is indeed "all knowing" when perceiving a domain from a frame of reference that is external to it. In the metaphor of the photograph for example, one can see the entire photo at once, and thus has total and complete knowledge of the image that is the photograph. As another example, if one were to have the perspective of a god, as used in western religious theology, one would be able to see, and have access to, this entire reality "at once". This would be perspective, and therefore a knowing that is omniscient. The central aspect that allows this type of knowing is the difference in frames of reference.

The term omniscient carries the connotation of a point of view which includes all of the domain viewed, where the perceiver is not (a part of/in interaction with) the thing(s) so perceived. A perception/description of any thing is omniscient modal when it is defined in terms of structure and when it has an external viewpoint. The action of description, naming, explanation, etc., are all omniscient activities. For example, the classical scientific perspective is a largely omniscient perspective. The theories of science are often posited in omniscient descriptions and explanations (i.e., as the formulations of science).

Another example of the omniscient is found in the religious idea of a deity (God) that created the world. To say "god has made and has total control over this world" is to assert an omniscient 'God' in relation to this world. Also, any concept of deity that created the world and departed, (i.e., that god is not still here creating this moment), is an omniscient concept of theology.

The term omniscient carries the connotation of something that is considered without time, and has fixed form/ structure. For example, a photograph is a perception of something in an omniscient manner, as the content of a photograph is considered unchanging. The things and events in the photograph are timeless.

Omniscient relations typically have only matter and space (static structural) components.

Omniscient descriptions begin with the largest scales and tend towards the unit size (i.e., a movement from the macroscopic to the microscopic boundaries of the domain). Omniscient systems are defined externally to themselves.

Any statement that defines the relationship between two specific/particular things (things which are not of the self of the observer), or that applies in a well defined context, is a statement of the omniscient mode. (Note: The qualifier of 'distinct specification' is important to this association).

The Semantics of the Transcendent Modality

Within common dictionaries, one may find definitions, and aspects of definitions, similar to these found for the term 'transcendent'.

As to exist above or independently of (material experience of the universe).
To rise above or across; surpass, exceed.
As designating knowledge that is beyond the limits of experience.
As that which is concerned with the a-priori or intuitive basis of knowledge.
As asserting a fundamental irrationality or supernatural element in experience.
As a referent to that which is above and beyond the ordinary experience.

Transcendent (as used in mathematics):

As not capable of being determined by any combination of a finite number of equations with rational number coefficients. As not expressible as an integer or quotient of integers.

Each of these definitions of transcendent carries the connotation of being outside or completely removed from the frame of reference that is one's given world. In this respect, the IDM usage of the term 'transcendent' is consistent with the original meaning in that it refers to any relation mode where the context of the relation is completely outside of the frame of reference that defines the domain. These relations are not experiential (that would be immanent) but are beyond the consideration of the experiential altogether, not being dependent upon the frames of reference that they connect.

Within the IDM metaphysics, the term transcendent carries the connotation of situations where a relation has no time or space components at all, but is based upon other measures of similarity and difference altogether. A transcendent relationship is one that has "no position" or no specific point of reference or context. For example, a statement that is "true" at all locations is a transcendent statement. Other examples of "transcendent type" relationships include the relation between the position of the hardware and the position of the software in the "same" computer. The structure that exists in a transcendent relationship is completely "from the inside towards the outside", or from the microscopic domain boundary towards the "unit size" (and/or the macroscopic domain boundary) of the domain. Transcendent systems are defined internally to themselves and have no external structure.

Transcendent relations have typically only possibility and probability (or pure strength type) components.

The traditional concept of transcendence does not just mean moving into another 'dimension', but rather to getting outside of a given frame of reference altogether.

A Computer Science Metaphor

For an example of something of the nature of the transcendent modality as used within the IDM metaphysics, consider the relationship between a typical computer program and some component of the hardware of the computer.

Consider that from the perspective of the software, the hardware has no locus, no position. A programmer does not find physical transistors in the data and files representing the program logic. Where the hardware is invisible to the program, and yet supports it "at all points" the relation to the program to the hardware is effectively transcendent, as viewed from the perspective of the program code.

Additionally, from the point of view of the hardware, the "location" of the software is similarly in-specific and invisible. This concept of having no relative position in time or space, (i.e., of being another frame of reference altogether), is characteristic of the transcendent modality.

The fact of having no common relative position is not to say, however, that the software and the hardware of a computer are completely independent. The program code affects/determines the connectivity and state of the hardware, and the hardware implements the software. A change of state in the hardware can definitely affect the state of the software (for example, if one were to turn the computer power off). This relation of two domains, one of software and one of hardware, is said to be one of conjugation.

Additionally, neither one completely controls the other; there is an interdependence of causality. The software does not completely determine the state of the hardware, and the state of the hardware does not completely define (at the level of description native to the software) the internal state of the software.

In that both hardware and software descriptions must be used to characterize the whole system, each has an equal "degree of realness" associated with it. They are both worlds unto themselves, and the being of one world does not exclude the internal reality of the other.

All of these aspects of the relationship between software and hardware are characteristic of the transcendent modality as used within the IDM metaphysics.

A Photographic Metaphor

Insofar as the IDM metaphysics is an inquiry into the relationship between the self and the world, the modalities of the IDM metaphysics refer to the various types of relationship that selves can be in with respect to their worlds. As such, the three modalities are essentially 'names' of basic relationship types.

Consider, for a moment, the sorts or types of relationships involved in looking at a photograph. Imagine, for example, that one had a picture of two people sitting on a beach.

The relationship between the viewer and the photograph, as an object in the hand, is an immanent one, in the frame of reference of the the viewer.

The frame of reference of the person holding the photograph is different than the frame of reference the photo depicts. For example, a person depicted within a photograph cannot "see" the person viewing the photo. One cannot see those people who will later be looking at the photo when the photo is taken. Insofar as the viewer has a "position" that is external to the frame of reference depicted within the photograph, the viewer is in an omniscient modal relationship to the depicted contents of the photograph.

Additionally, the structure depicted by the photograph, i.e. its frame of reference and everything within it, is defined from the outside only, by the material of the photograph itself. This structure is completely determined/specified, is fixed and static, and has no vector of time. These situational attributes typically characterize the omniscient modality.

The relation between the viewer and the photograph itself is an immanent mode relation. The relation between the viewer and someone depicted within the photograph is an omniscient mode relation. Note however, that the relation between someone within the photograph and someone else who is also within the photograph is an immanent mode relation.

Imagine that there is another/additional photograph of the same scene, taken from a different position (i.e., that there were two photographers that day). For a moment, imagine that there is one photograph in each hand, and that one can see both of them at once. The relation of the sameness of someone depicted within the first photograph to someone depicted within the second photograph would be a transcendent modal relation.

The relations between two photographs are determined by the content of these photographs only, (i.e., they do not depend on the particular context of the photographs, where they happen to be, etc). There is no specific frame of reference defined between the photos, for it makes no difference how far or near the actual photos may be (in the frame of reference of the viewer). As such, there is no structure, specification, or vector of space necessarily "including" both photographs at all; any such context is purely dynamic. These situational attributes characterize the transcendent modality.

One could think of the relations between the self and the photograph (the immanent mode) as being a mixture of the transcendent and the omniscient (1). One's relation (i.e. perceptual interaction) to any given photograph has both time and space type vectors. Such a relation contains elements of both staticism (it remains the same photo) and dynamism (no photograph lasts forever), and has both context (one cannot view a photograph in the dark) and content (a blank photograph is not worth looking at) dependencies. The structure of the relations is only partially specified and has some latitude for change, depending on the purposes of the viewer.

[1] However, a caution in thinking in this way is that, by Axiom I, the immanent mode defines both the omniscient and the transcendent modes relative to the immanent. If the omniscient was totally fixed structure (as pure stasis), and the transcendent is total absence of structure (or pure dynamism), and these were considered as extreme end points of a single continuum with the immanent in the middle (as the origin), then the origin would define the end points, and not the other way around (as one would ordinarily assume).

A Dream of the Modalities

To deeply understand the nature of the three modal concepts as used in the IDM metaphysics, it is especially helpful to consider the process of dreaming, as a metaphor. This process of dreaming is something which everyone experiences, and as such, provides a common semantic basis for the understanding of metaphysics. However, in that the nature of one's dreaming is intensely personal, there is something of this metaphor which extends beyond the merely metaphorical. The nature of the modalities as expressed here is about one's very being, and thus immediately applies in a totally literal and individual sense. As such, rather than just reading this essay as a metaphor to understand the semantics of the three modalities, one may also recognize that this describes an entry point for the application of metaphysics directly to one's own actual life.

There are three perspectives, or ways of experiencing, one's dreams:

The first perspective is that of the dreaming person, the one who experiences the dream directly, living within it. Within the IDM metaphysics, this way of experiencing/perceiving is called an immanent modal relationship between the dreamer and the dream.

The second perspective is that of the dreamer, the one who 'created' the dream, and is standing outside of it. For example, consider a daydream: The aspect of the person who feels that they are 'in control' of everything (all events) that occurs in/within/with the daydream (1). This aspect of self is the one who knows for sure what is going to happen next, and may attempt to awaken the self from dreaming if that outcome is not liked. The IDM metaphysics defines this all knowing or controlling aspect of self as being or operating in the omniscient modality with respect to the dream.

The third perspective is that of the 'awake self' who remembers the dream the next morning. This aspect of self stands apart from both the dreaming aspect of the self, and dreamer/creator aspect of the self. When one remembers a dream in the morning, one usually remembers from the perspective of the dreaming self, rather than that of the dreamer self. However, if the dream had been especially lucid, then the person remembering the dream in the morning will have a memory in the omniscient perspective as well (usually combined with the immanent perspective). Note, however, that the perspective of the person remembering the dream is neither that of the dreamer, nor the dreamed. The IDM metaphysics refers to this third perspective or aspect of self as being/operating in a transcendent modality.

[1] In a similar manner, the conventional description of "A God who watches and creates everything in this reality" is a classic description of a 'self' operating in the omniscient mode with respect to this domain or reality. It is especially interesting to note that both of these examples are valid comparisons to dreams under the Domain Continuum Hypothesis (that domains differ only in degree, never in essence).

Relations between selves and worlds have intrinsic aspects and modes. Any given self can have, or be in, any one of the three modes, (relative to the framework of a given world/ domain) depending on the point of view (relation) of the self. In the IDM metaphysics, these aspects have been classified into three types and given a specific modality terminology. All three modes are always present.

As an example of the use of these perceptual modes consider the process of daydreaming. Part of the self is creating the daydream and "controls" all that goes on within (one has the freedom to imagine whatever they want). This overseer is the omniscient fraction of self. The part of self that is within the daydream as a character or participant (in full dreaming one experiences that reality) is the immanent fraction of self. The part of self that may remember "other" daydreams and sees the connections between these, that has an experience of both the waking world and the dreaming world, is the transcendent fraction of self. All three fractions together compose the "complete self", which straddles all three of these characteristics.

As a metaphor, this could be interpreted as: Dreams are just as real as consensus reality, although following different laws (as the laws of software are NOT the same as the laws of hardware). From the point of view of that part of self which is the higher, divine soul, the activities of one's ordinary daily life (which would normally regard by self as being in an immanent mode) are instead regarded (known) within an omniscient modality. Yet, from the perspective of that self when it is dreaming, and in being a self 'other than' that which one is when awake, the activities and interactions of one's waking life are known only within a transcendent modality.

The Modalities of Imagination

As another metaphor, consider the act of imagination in the statement "One (can) imagine oneself imagining what is imagined". Note that some form of the word "imagine" is used three times, in three different ways.

In imagination, there are three distinct levels of experiencing referred to: 1) the passive experience of oneself imagining that one can or does imagine something/anything, 2) the active experience of oneself imagining something, and 3) the passive experience of whatever content is 'actually' imagined.

Each of these levels of experience is always implicit in a/any/the/all acts of imagination, regardless of who is imagining or what is being imagined, or even when/where this action/event occurs. Each of the three represents an instance of a modality of the IDM metaphysics.

The first experience of imagining is the perspective of the transcendent mode. It posits the possibility of a class of possible imagination actions/events. This is the perspective of the person who is common to, and yet apart from, all imaginative acts. It may, for example, represent the aspect of self currently in the action of reading this paragraph now.

The second experience of imagining is the perspective of the omniscient mode, which represents an instance of actualities. It is the part of self which is active in the process of imagination itself. It is the part that "does" the event of imagination.

The third experience of imagining is the immanent perspective, which experiences the content of whatever is imagined in any given event of imagination.

In all acts of imagination, these three modes, experiences, and aspects are inherent, intrinsic, and inseparable from the process/event of imagination itself.

Note that an aspect of this metaphor is the implicit idea that the modes are not places or things. The modes are ways of seeing and are not 'things' in themselves. There is no 'thing' or 'place' or 'self' that is 'the transcendent' for example.

Also, none of the modalities ever occur in isolation. One can always shift the perspective to change the mode of any relation. Returning to the dreaming metaphor for a moment, while it is true that with respect to the 'awake self' within this Earth Object domain the domain of dream is transcendent, it is also true that with respect to the 'dreaming self' within the dream domain, the waking reality is transcendent. This relativity is inherent in the specifications of the modalities, and is often considered in terms of a conjugation as described by Axiom I.

An Optical Metaphor for the Modalities

Consider an arrangement where one may in one hand hold a photograph and in the other hold a modern hologram. Although both represent images, the nature and applications of each is very different.

To demonstrate this difference, consider, for example, what would happen to the seen image were each to be cut in half and discarded. The photograph, as expected, would show only part of the original image. The remaining part, would suffer no loss of detail. The hologram, in contrast, would continue to show the whole image (albeit distorted to match the new frame shape), but there would be some loss of detail. The hologram image would seem a bit more fuzzy. In effect, the photograph lost macroscopic structure and retained the microscopic, whereas the hologram lost microscopic detail but retained macroscopic structure.

In terms of the modalities, the photograph has the nature of the omniscient. The hologram has the nature of the transcendent. The light used to view each of these, has the nature of the immanent. In the sense that both the hologram and the photograph are complexes, the light used to view them is structurally simple. For the photograph, light, through the agency of a lens, has point source and point destination (i.e., simple structurelessness). This is similar to the use of a laser for the making of a hologram, which is also structureless (in color as well as in origin). These three -- light, photographic representation, and holographic representation -- make good examples of the natures of the modalities immanent, omniscient, and transcendent, respectively.

Identifying Modality Correspondences

To effectively identify those concepts which are the modes of an arbitrarily given domain, it is necessary to establish that the selected concepts are exactly essential to that domain (i.e., to have selected the correct number or quantity of concept), and that well developed (tested) role correspondences have been observed for each (i.e., to have selected the correct quality of concept).

Often this is a process of iterative trial and error, where conceptual aspects of a given domain are abstracted and tested against the modal templates for a good fit. To show correctness, each of the abstracted concepts needs to be demonstrated as being necessary to any possible consideration of the domain, and that the three concepts together are sufficient for any such consideration (being careful to have well scoped domains). Then, the role of each of the concepts with respect to the other two is considered in detail, particularly as they are used in careful (complete) descriptions of the process of the domain being considered. Where both the implicit connotations and strict lexical formulation of all such descriptive statements remain correct when substituting instances of terms of equivalent modality for some other domain, then the modalities of each of the three domain essential terms is said to be well associated.

1.41-1 Ultimately, it is the Axioms which define and distinguish the modalities, even while the Axioms are best described in the terms of the modalities. To consider the (meaning of) Axioms as being defined/described in terms of (the meaning of) the modalities is the practice of theory. To consider the Axioms as defining/describing (the meaning of) the modalities is the theory of practice. To know and understand the IDM metaphysics requires both the practice of theory and the theory of practice.

1.41-2 The Theory of Practice:

Axiom III (as the being of Foundational Triplication) is an assertion that there are three modalities, or three terms/concepts, which together subsume the essence of a domain, and which fill (or have) the roles of the modalities of immanent, omniscient, and transcendent. Axiom III does not in itself identify which domain essential concept is associated with which modality, but only that such associations are always strongly definable.

Axiom I (as the essence of the Practice of Theory) distinguishes the immanent modality from the omniscient and transcendent modalities. The immanent modality is that term which (in a context which is both objective and non-temporal) is used as the necessary basis for the definition/description of both the omniscient and the transcendent terms, and/or that which can only be (completely/accurately) defined/described in terms of both the omniscient and the transcendent terms. Axiom I has the effect of naming/identifying the term with an immanent modal association, even though it does not identify which of the two remaining terms are to be associated with the omniscient and transcendent modalities.

Axiom II (as the essence of the Theory of Practice) distinguishes the omniscient modality from the transcendent modality. The omniscient modal term is identified by being that term which in practice (in a context which is both subjective and temporal) necessarily follows from the being of the term with an immanent modal association (that term already identified by Axiom I). The transcendent modal term is identified by being that term which in practice necessarily precedes the being of the term with an immanent modal association.

1.41-3 Presuming that the three essential foundation concepts of a domain have already been resolved and identified into three named concepts, the modal class of each of the domain predicates may be identified by a close match to the structure of the usage (and relations) of that concept with that of the generic modality. For each modality, the pattern of usage will typically be some analogue of what follows:.

An immanent modal concept is that concept which, in the context of theory, has the role of either defining both of the other two concepts, or which can only be fully defined by statements in terms of both of the other two concepts in a theoretical/model context domain external to the domain so described and modeled.
In the context of practice, the immanent modality will be that aspect of all instances of the domain fundamental dynamic which subjectively follows (in time) the occurrence of a transcendental aspect and which precedes an omniscient aspect.
In the context of metaphysics, the immanent modal concept will be the one which has a pattern of the structure of its relations which most closely match that of Axiom II.

An omniscient modal concept is that concept which, in the context of theory, has the role of referring to that which is a (known/necessary) static (fixed) consequent to/of a class of the processes described by, or referred to by, the immanent modal concept in the action context of process within a domain.
In the context of practice, the omniscient modality will be that aspect of all instances of the domain fundamental dynamic which subjectively follows (in time) the occurrence of an immanent aspect and which precedes a transcendent aspect.
In the context of metaphysics, the omniscient modal concept will be the one which has a pattern of the structure of its relations which most closely match that of Axiom I.

A transcendent modal concept is that concept which, in the context of theory, has the role of referring to the (unspecified or incompletely specified) class of implicit assumptions/process which is/are a necessary precondition(s) to the class of processes described by, or referred to by, the immanent modal concept in the action context of process within a domain.
In the context of practice, the transcendent modality will be that aspect of all instances of the domain fundamental dynamic which subjectively follows (in time) the occurrence of an omniscient aspect and which precedes an immanent aspect.
In the context of metaphysics, the transcendent modal concept will be the one which has a pattern of the structure of its relations which most closely match that of Axiom III.

1.41-4 The Practice of Theory: The modal types for domain predicates can (usually) also be identified with a construction by analogy (type isomorphism). When a series of common semantic relations are established between the basic predicates of one domain to the fundamental predicates of other domains (which have known and well established modal correspondences) the modality correspondences may be identified by their common implications.

The degree of confidence (the strength associated with the technique of establishing transitive modal correspondences) is in proportion to the product of the number, difference, and degree of the domains mutually corresponded.

More specifically, the degree of confidence in any given allocation of modal roles to (presumed) domain essential concepts is defined as the integral of the product of the degree of correctness of both the connotative and formulaic aspects of domain descriptive statements (in terms of those essential concepts), across all possible instances of modal isomorphic substitutions of those essential concepts, and the relative degree of dissimilarity of the domain which provides these substituting instances.

The total degree of the semantic resolution of the meaning of the pure modal concepts themselves, (and also the total degree of confidence in all other developed (domain) modal correspondences), is considered to be (very strongly) proportional to the total number of identified correspondences between the identified three domain essential concepts and the three modalities.

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