About {theme} theory

{restriction} is a {theme}. The most important single {theme} is {linkage}, < >, which, like other {themes}, plays a fundamental role in the mind's making sense of experience, as well as concepts not originating in experience. For more detailed information about the {themes} and my approach, a study of Introduction to {theme} theory would be very useful (I have to say, indispensable). From the introduction:  

'{theme} theory is completely general and philosophy is only one application-sphere. These illustrative examples are very diverse in subject matter and  in degree of abstraction: for example ethical argument, concrete problems in applied ethics, Nazi atrocities, Stalin, the death penalty, mathematical and philosophical relations, the completion of a  proof, scientific correlation.  There are also marked differences in tone: the tone appropriate to abstract and systematic subject matter but also forthright criticism, for example of Nietzsche, the juxtaposition sometimes of the abstract and  the impassioned.'

'{theme} theory is based upon the conscious, and justifiable, ignoring in many cases of sphere-boundaries, such as the boundaries separating the material sphere, the conceptual sphere, the spheres of the different senses. A mathematician may attack a problem in the mind just as a soldier may attack an all-too-concrete machine-gun post. A scientific model may be material, the model constructed from materials of different kinds, such as wood and plastic, or the model may be purely conceptual, without material expression. Scientific modelling is an activity which can be practised in material or conceptual ways. Linkages may be material, such as a connecting rod in a mechanical system linking mechanical components or non-material, such as the ties of shared history linking, in some cases, nations.'

List of {themes}:

{adjustment} Â
{contrast} ( )
{distance} D
{linkage} < >
{ordering} Ô
{resolution} ®
{restriction} ==
{reversal} «
{separation} //
{substitution} S

In the list, the name of each {theme} is followed by the symbol for the {theme}. Clicking on the {theme} gives access to a page which gives instances of the {theme}. These instances show something of the range of {theme} theory, which addresses the most diverse areas of human experience and knowledge.

Limitation and limits
Disappointment and imperfection
Exemption: slavery
Quantum mechanics
Linkage schemata
Linkage isolation
Isolation and abstraction
Isolation and the 'Whole Truth'
Isolation and distortion
Poetry and prose
Kant and the limits of knowledge
Allowing and disallowing

Limitation and limits

I make use of these concepts very extensively. These are twomodes of {restriction} as of other themes. Limitation is free: Here, {restriction} is freely chosen, self-imposed. Limits arebound, imposed on us.

Some examples of limitation (some of these are described in other parts of the site but are brought together here.)

The industrial revolution was surely not a disastrous interruption to an idyllic pre-industrial life but a development which has brought massive benefits as well as massive disadvantages. The benefits include medical advances (and veterinary advances), sanitation systems, systems for the supply of drinking water, transportation systems which allow distant communities to be fed rather than to starve...and many others. Huge factories and warehouses and computerized distribution networks are an intrinsic and necessary part of the modern industrial world. But the tendency has been to apply these systems to areas where it can be argued that they aren't appropriate, or even morally harmful. Massive supermarkets are the industrial system applied to retailing. Only aspects of the industrial system are appropriate, not the industrial system applied mechanically.Battery chicken sheds, intensive broiler sheds and intensive pig units, factory farming in general, are the industrial system applied to retailing.

Over long periods of time, warfare has been unrestricted. When besieged cities surrendered, all the inhabitants were put to the sword, or some were slaughtered and the rest sold into slavery. Enemy combatants who surrendered were killed. No attempt was made to treat wounded enemy combatants. Grotius in the seventeenth century made important contributions to establishing international law. Eventually, with the Geneva conventions, measures were taken to impose {restriction}, on warfare: for example to lay down rules for the protection of non-combatants, to protect combatants who had surrendered or were wounded, to impose {restriction} on the kinds of weapons which could be used, banning the use of poison gas, for example. I have played a part in opposing the use of anti-personnel mines. As is commonly known, these can kill non-combatants long after a conflict has ended. There are very good arguments, I think, for extending the {restriction} of weapons by banning the manufacture of anti-personnel mines. Achieving that as a practicable objective would not be easy.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell opposed involvement in the First World War but supported the need for military action in the Second World War. I think that there can be legitimate disagreements about the First World War, but he was surely correct in supporting military action in the Second World War. This is to apply limitation - to work for a world order which makes the maintenance of peace more likely This amounts to a large number of separate responsibilities, and is not the same as working for a 'world government,' which I think is a futile objective. To anticipate the possibility that there may be war in the future needs adequate expenditure on the armed forces in time of peace. I'm a wholehearted critic of so many aspects of life in this country, including political life, but I think that its armed forces are cause for overwhelming pride.

Some examples of limits.

The inescapable limits to achievement, accomplishment, experience, involving the need to choose. By practising a musical instrument intensively, to that extent the time is lost for any number of other activities. Commitment to a very demanding job entails the sacrifice of some time with family, friends, commitment to a good cause. Full commitment to a humanitarian cause may cause atrophy - partial, not full, it's to be hoped - of some aspects of the personality. Time given to natural beauty is time not given to the plight of people whose lives have been blighted.

The obvious limits to energy use imposed by finite resources, of non-renewable sources. The limits of renewable resources, each of which has its disadvantages.

Disappointment and imperfection

There are a vast number of these applications of bound {restriction}- unfortunately. These are only a few:

We taste foods or drinks and the taste is vile, or it falls short in some way, a {restriction} on our enjoyment. We listen to music and the performance is very accomplished but the recording is poor, a {restriction} on our appreciation. We do everything we can to achieve an objective - this is free rather than bound activity - but through no fault of our own, as a result of circumstances beyond our control, we achieve only a fraction of what we want to achieve: bound {restriction}. We grow plants, but pests and diseases make the yield and the quality disappointing, despite everything we did to avoid these problems. People let us down, vehicles break down, products fail.

Exemption: slavery

'Exemption' is the term I use for 'exemption from examination.' Philosophy generally takes away exemption: 'the unexamined life is not worth living.' The reality of the common sense world is exempted by most people, but philosophers have, and still do, subject it to careful sceptical examination. Socrates subjected many, many ideas supposedly beyond challenge to examination, removing exemption from them. However, Socrates, like all other Greek philosophers to our knowledge, like all the ancient Greeks, gave exemption to the institution of slavery. (St Paul, the early Christians, the vast majority of Christians up to the anti-slavery movements also gave exemption to slavery.)

Scepticism is the practice of removing exemption. Scepticism can, of course, involve the examination, the removal of exemption to, new age thinking, religion, can have innumerable application-spheres. A less commonly considered application-sphere is the removal of exemption to some emotions. I discussscepticism and the emotions on the page on bullfighting.

Unexamined - exempted - concepts, practices, emotions involve little or no {restriction}. Scepticism involves {removal} of this {restriction} to a greater or lesser extent.

Quantum mechanics

The kinetic energy of a rigid rotator in classical physics isn't subject to {restriction}, unlike a quantized rotator, which is subject to /quantum restriction/on angular momentum. The quantum number for rotation is subject to {restriction}. It can only have integer values.

/quantum restriction/ on vibrational energy can be calculated by solving the time independent Schrödinger equation in one dimension.

One of the simplest systems illustrating quantization is the particle which is confined to a one dimensional box. When the Schrödinger equation is solved, it's found that there is {restriction}, since there are well-behaved solutions only for certain energy values, the equation which gives these energy values including the quantum number for the system, an integer. Here, the theorist (not the experimenter) confining the particle in the one-dimensional box constitutes {/free restriction}. The fact that values for the quantum number are integral constitutes {/bound restriction}.

{/free restriction}, unlike {/bound restriction} in scientific investigations, involves a teleological component: the scientist is practising {/free restriction} in order to corroborate or falsify a theory.


Some humour blurs the contrast between the tragic and the comic realm and is far from being 'harmless fun.' (There are many, many examples of humour which can and do cause offence to one person or another, one group or another, but which don't blur this essential contrast and are healthy, such as the humour directed at pompous people, deluded people, ideologists, theists and bureaucrats.)

The comedian Brendon Burns, quoted in 'The Independent:' 'Is there anything you can't write a joke about? Absolutely not.' The view that, in effect, {restriction} should not be applied in the sphere of humour. This view is, I think, degenerate and disgusting. A degenerate, disgusting (and unfunny) joke appears in the same article. It comes from Steve Hall. ''I used to go out with Christopher Reeve, but I had to keep standing him up.' Christopher Reeve is the actor who was paralyzed from the neck down.  Another example: the comedy series 'Allo! Allo!' set in wartime France and featuring the German occupation forces and the Resistance.

Linkage schemata

{restriction} is applied to the content of content brackets [ ] in linkage schemata when only certain ontological entities are considered for inclusion, such as structural universals, abstract particulars, assertions of possibility and necessity in possible-worlds semantics, subjects or predicates, concrete objects, persons, and obviously many other entities.

{/intrinsic restriction}, in the terminology I use, is applied to the content of linkage brackets < > as a result of excluding entities which belong to content brackets. Otherwise, {/extrinsic restriction} is applied by choosing for inclusion linkages such as the mathematical 'equals' sign, logical connectives, membership of a mathematical set, and obviously many more.


A ((survey)) is more often than not subject to {restriction}, that is, == :- ((surveys)). This  may be inevitable, since it would be impractical to give a ((survey)) which is not subject to {restriction}, or the ((survey)) may include all the ((survey-terms)) which are necessary for an understanding, interpretation, analysis, practical decision or whatever may be the purpose of the ((survey)). In this case, we have a positive evaluation, {restriction}ev+  However, a ((survey)) may omit one or more ((survey-terms)) which are highly relevant, indispensable to the purposes of the ((survey)), leading to distortion. In this case, we have {restriction}ev- If, as may well be the case, there are complexities which make it difficult to decide upon the evaluation, then {resolution} may be carried out to break down the matter into separate components, allowing a decision to be made for each of these components. 


'The rhetoric of the frame: essays on the boundaries of the artwork,' edited by Paul Duro is a comprehensive and exceptionally interesting treatment of the concept applied to visual art. The concept also has an established use in literary studies. For example, a framed narrative is a 'narrative within a narrative,' or one with various levels of narrative. Derrida uses the terms 'parergon' (such as the frame enclosing the artwork) and 'ergon,' an artwork or text which is enclosed.

My use of {/framing} has no connotations of enclosure. As a sub-theme of {restriction}, it's applied only to the setting of a boundary. {/framing}has {limitation} and {/limitation} has {free restriction}. Obviously, {/framing} also has {separation}. Paul Duro, in 'Containment and Transgression in French Seventeenth-Century Painting' (from the work cited), writes in connection with a remark of Poussin, "the principal function of the frame is to separate the objects it represents from those not crucial to the representation." Paul Duro writes of the extent of the world beyond the bounds established by the frame." These 'bounds' (and the 'containment' of the title of this essay) are instances of {restriction.}And, also: "The frame permits the operation of distinction, setting its limits and the conditions under which history painting may operate." Obviously, using my terminology, these 'limits' constitute {limitation}, as free rather than bound.

Linkage isolation: feminism, atheism etc


In the practice of linkage isolation, the existence of other linkages is ignored, completely so in the case of absolute linkage isolation, to a large extent in the case of relative linkage isolation. This is to ignore factorization - the identification of the factors - and an adequate survey of linkages. In linkage isolation, there is {restriction}, then.

Some feminist claims seem to me to amount to linkage isolation, as do corresponding claims of the 'men's movement.' It's only the fact that feminism is better known than the men's movement that leads me to discuss linkage isolation here largely in terms of feminism.

According to many feminists, there are distinctive female ways of looking at the world, distinctive female ways of thinking and feeling, although other feminists minimize the differences. This is to emphasize the linkages between women, sometimes to the exclusion of other linkages. The more that other linkages are excluded, the closer the approach to 'linkage isolation.' In the examples below, I use the term 'linkages' for consistency and for more important reasons than consistency, because to use the same term in so many contrasted contexts shows vividly new ways of making sense of reality. But at all times, I'm aware that the 'linkages' are also bonds, forms of human solidarity and feeling, what 'people have in common.'

In some situations, linkages between women - or men - may be subsidiary, vastly outweighed by other linkages in importance. Women worked in the mines in this country until the passing of the Mines Act in 1842. The linkages between the men and the women doing backbreaking work in complete or almost complete darkness, breathing in coal dust, constantly at risk of severe injury or death by explosion, crushing or drowning, were more significant than the linkage between the women toiling in the mines and, to give just one example, the wife of an aristocrat. During the last miners' strike in this country, there were no doubt linkages between the miners' wives and Mrs Thatcher based on gender, but the linkages based on shared hardships in the mining communities (and perhaps some shared delusions about trade union power) were far more significant.

During the Great Famine in Ireland, six hundred starving men, women and children walked from Louisburgh in County Mayo to Delphi Lodge to ask, unsuccessfully, for famine relief. Many of them died on the way back, below the stark mountains by Doo Lough. Searing experiences such as these establish linkages which are vastly more significant than any linkage between a starving woman and a happy and prosperous woman, or between a starving man and a happy and prosperous man.

The linkages between Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans - they were guillotined by the Nazis on the same day for membership of the White Rose group, which protested against the Nazis - were far more significant than the linkage of gender between Sophie Scholl and the wife of Goebbels or Himmler, or the linkage of gender between Hans Scholl and Goebbels or Himmler.


Atheists, humanists, secularists may regard the atheism, humanism, secularism of a person or a country as a dominant linkage, or may isolate the linkage. I'm an atheist and the Chinese government has a policy of opposition to religion so that to this extent, there's a linkage. But the differences, the contrasts, far outweigh the similarities, the linkages: not only the obvious differences between one person and a vast and populous country but more importantly, my hostility to the repression practised by this atheistic state, its suppression of independent thought.

The Christian beliefs which most or all of the people associated with Edgeways Books and the Brynmill Press seem to have (the Press's current directors are Brian Lee, Ian Robinson,
Duke Maskell and Michael DiSantoare) are in marked contrast with my own lack of belief, but I identify very strongly with their outspoken and exemplary critiques of homogenization, cultural impoverishment, demolishing of identity (as in Ian Robinson's 'Untied Kingdom') and other harmful trends. Linkages and contrasts should be 'found,' as facts - even if the 'facts' are sometimes not straightforward - not imposed in accordance with a theory: this leads to alignment.

In his fine essay 'Ulsterectomy,' the poet Andrew Waterman makes scathing comments about an atheist poet, James Simmons, and defends John Donne - although John Donne has no need to be defended against James Simmons. He can look after himself. Since Andrew Waterman and James Simmons were at the time both lecturers in the same department at the New University of Ulster (as it then was) this must have required some boldness. He writes, 'Slapdash, blank to the rhythmical and textural subtleties characterizing any richer poetry, Simmons' early work shows a frankness that occasionally weirdly coincides with sheer lack of emotional tact to enable a simplifying kind of perceptiveness...Simmons' doggerel and ballad verse-medium is hopeless for more intricate or personal poetry. But what is so archetypal about a poem beginning 'Last night the wife was fucked into the ground/By a fat rugby player,' is not just its crassness in handling intimate experience, but that by the poem's close what it has so characteristically come round to being all about is 'my good mental habits' and what an understanding tolerant fellow Simmons himself is. An incorrigible narcissism corrodes Simmons' bulky oevre, associated with a sentimentality about life and people meant to redound to the poets' credit but shot through with moral doublethink and dismissive malice. His latest collection, Judy Garland and the Cold War, shows Simmons through reams of earnest doggerel reductively summarizing various major writers he possibly can't realize as of vastly larger and more complex dimensions than himself: Emily Dickinson, Lawrence, John Donne selling out 'for God's magic bargain drops'.' He goes on to criticize James Simmons' inadequate view of another Christian poet, T. S. Eliot, a poet who is obviously far greater than James Simmons.

I'm at one with Nietzsche in his hostility to Christianity. In this respect, there's a linkage between my own views and the anti-Christian views of Nietzsche but my revulsion against many more of his views are as significant, for example, Nietzsche's condemnation of pity. I criticize Nietzsche's attitude to pity more fully on another page, concerned with the theme {adjustment}: Nietzsche

A little background information about Nietzsche's attitude to Christianity, and about my own objections to Christianity and to other theisms. His fullest and most uncompromising attack on Christianity is to be found in his 'The Anti-christ.' For example:

'In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point. Nothing but imaginary causes...nothing but imaginary effects...an imaginary natural science (anthropocentric; complete lack of the concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology...an imaginary teleology ('the Kingdom of God', 'the Last Judgement', 'eternal life'). (Section 15).

'Christianity, a form of mortal hostility to reality as yet unsurpassed.' (Section 27).

And in the final Section (Section 62): [Of the Christian Church] 'People still dare to talk to me of its 'humanitarian' blessings! To abolish any state of distress whatever has been profoundly inexpedient to it: it has lived on states of distress, it has created states of distress...The worm of sin, for example: it was only the Church which enriched mankind with this state of distress.'

As almost always, in 'The Anti-Christ,' Nietzsche has next to no concern for significant details and qualifications, or for his own hypocrisy and contradictions (this enemy of humanitarianism dares to mention 'humanitarian blessings.') He fails to mention that individual priests and clergy and Christian believers have been humanitarians and that the record of the Churches themselves, though generally dismal, has sometimes been heartening. He fails to mention the dismal record of anti-Christians.

One of the strongest objections to Christianity is based on Linkage Isolation, I think. There are still orthodox Christians in large numbers who are convinced that non-Christians, or, as evangelicals would put it, those who haven't accepted Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour, are destined for hell. And Moslems who think that non-Moslems are destined for hell.

What of those people destined for hell? They include loving mothers and fathers, people of immense courage, scientific discoverers, as well as people whose flaws are readily understandable, whose difficulties would have made any other outcome almost miraculous - in the non-religious sense. Much the same objections apply even if the believer doesn't actually believe in hell. The believer is bound to give central importance - or to isolate - the linkages with other believers and to make subsidiary linkages based not on theology but on such factors as achievement and intrinsic worth. The linkages which orthodox Christians or Moslems emphasize, the linkages between believers, are surely not the significant linkages and to isolate those particular linkages is a way of dividing up humanity in a way that is contrary to human values.

Relevant, perhaps, to the discussion above: I studied theology for a year and have studied the Old Testament and the New Testament in detail - and in the original languages.


In some conflicts - certainly in the First World War - linkages between combatants have sometimes been very significant, sometimes stronger than the linkages with their fellow-citizens. A British soldier in the hellish conditions of Passchendaele sometimes felt more in common with a German in the same conditions than with the British civilians whose lives were very different. In this case the linkage British soldier-German soldier was more significant than the linkage British soldier-British civilian. (Niall Ferguson in 'The Pity of War' gives plentiful evidence that these feelings were far from being universal, hatred of the opposing side very common.)

Isolation and abstraction

{restriction} has {/isolation}. {isolation} is a necessary part of scientific analysis. A concrete problem to do with the momentum of the particular car involves subjecting the elements of the problem to {isolation}, (the elements being only those entities which are relevant to the solution of the problem by the methods of mechanics.)

Isolation and the 'Whole Truth'

Aldous Huxley, in 'Music at Night,' distinguishes between ] 'tragedy' and 'the Whole Truth:' "To make a tragedy the artist must isolate a single element out of the totality of human experience and use that exclusively as his material. Tragedy is something that is separated out from the Whole Truth, distilled from it...chemically pure...It is because of its chemical purity that tragedy so effectively performs its function of catharsis...in recent times literature has become more and more acutely conscious of the Whole Truth - of the great ocean of irrelevant things, events and thoughts stretching away endlessly in every direction..."

This is quoted in Deryck Cooke, 'Gustav Mahler.' He writes of Mahler's music, "For Mahler, music had to include the trivialities and absurdities of everyday life." And, "Any assessment of it as 'pure music' by Beethovenian standards is meaningless: if Beethoven's symphonies are lie perfect poetic odes or taut classical dramas, Mahler's are like roomy, discursive volumes of autobiography. But though they are 'impure', they are none the less essentially on the tragic plane." (Page 17, 18).

To use considerations such as these as a 'mechanical' way of arriving at the conclusion that Mahler is a great composer would be mistaken, though. This would be to avoid the use of judgement. I agree with this opinion on Mahler's music, taken from an internet discussion:

[Why is Mahler thought of as a great composer?] "Beats me. Perhaps because he reminds some of movie music from the '30's. Movie music seems to be the touchstone for entry into what some think of as "classical" music - loud, fragmented, pointlessly emotional, with lots of noisy climaxes and off the wall pathos...To me Mahler's symphonies sound like the work of a great orchestrator who's convinced himself he can - and must - prove himself greater than Beethoven but who has absolutely nothing to say and can't tell the difference between vulgarity and profundity." I prefer the less characteristic symphonies of Mahler such as the First and the Fourth to the more characteristic symphonies such as the Sixth or the Ninth. The Ninth has its moments, such as the opening of the second movement (its orchestration is good but no more than good - violas playing with bassoons), but it's increasingly overtaken by whimsicality and empty gestures that only have volume. This becomes the dominant emphasis once the 'meno mosso' section begins.

Isolation and distortion

The focus is upon one aspect, excluding other aspects which are relevant. To give just one example, focussing attention only upon the real risks to health of smoking, and ignoring aspects of the person other than the person's willingness to risk health.

Poetry and prose

'It has for long been acknowledged that the poet enjoys a special licence in the matter of making nouns do the work of verbs, adjectives of nouns, and so on.' (Donald Davie, 'Articulate Energy: An enquiry into the syntax of English poetry.') In general, poets are subject to far less {restriction} than prose writers - in their writing. Earning a living is another matter.

Kant and the limits of knowledge

In the section of the 'Critique of Pure Reason' he called 'Transcendental Dialectic,' Kant maintained (translating into my own terminology) that a priori knowledge has as its only legitimate 'sphere of application' objects of possible experience, and that {restriction} makes it impossible to have knowledge of the nature of the soul or the cosmos, or the existence of God. These are things which transcend possible experience and can't be matters of knowledge.


In natural language, 'none, some, most, all' show a gradient of {restriction} from most restricted to least restricted. In a gradient of {restriction}, {ordering}:- {restriction}. This can be shown as:

== 'none' > == 'some' > == 'most' == 'all'

In quantificational logic, the existential quantifier is more restricted in effect than the universal operator:


The scope of a quantifier can also be understood in terms of {restriction}. The scope of the quantifier is more restricted in

( y) Fy  Gy than in

( y) (Fy  Gy).

The scope of a quantifier is the complete expression following it.

Gödel's Theorem has as its sphere of application deduction from theorems. It finds {restriction} in axiomatic systems- there are undecidable propositions (Gödel propositions) within the system or true propositions which can't be derived from the axioms.

Allowing and disallowing

I use these terms in connection with the {restriction}ofdiversification. Examples:

(1) Childhood traumas may be extenuating circumstances in cases of a murder conviction - so that the death penalty, which I oppose, should be all the more unthinkable - OR, by diversification, they may not. The more severe the traumas, the greater the likelihood of that they do amount to extenuating circumstances. This is how I see the matter. Unswerving supporters of the death penalty - I refer to them as 'primitive' people - may well disallow any of these extenuating circumstances. For them, there are no cruelties inflicted upon a baby or child which could make a death sentence unthinkable. And so, in the United States, there have gone to the execution chamber people such as Johnny Garrett (in the primitive state of Texas), a juvenile offender who was treated in an unspeakable way as a child (when he was a baby, he was put on the burner of a cooker, for example.)

Kant allowed the contrast between analytic and synthetic statements. Quine disallowed the contrast, imposing a {restriction} on diversification. There are separate contrasts analytic-synthetic and a posteriori-a priori, giving, by {diversification}, four theoretical forms. Kant disallowed one of these, the analytic-a posteriori form. He allowed the synthetic-a posteriori and the analytic-a priori forms, although he believed that they were without interest. The synthetic-a priori form, of course, he regarded as very significant.