About {theme} theory

{separation} 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}:

{contrast} ( )
{distance} D
{linkage} < >
{restriction} ==
{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.









Separation of people: Shakespeare
Separation of people: Auschwitz-Birkenau
Separation between past and present
Separation in vegetables and fruit
Human characteristics and lack of versatility
Separation techniques in Chemistry
Thermodynamic separation
{Separation} and application-sphere
Separability and separation
Ending life and saving life
Resisting aggression
Demarcation between science and metaphysics
Mary Beard and areas of competence

Separation of people: Shakespeare

The closing lines of 'Love's Labour's Lost,' preceded by WINTER.

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson's saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of
Apollo. You that way: we this way.


Separation of people: Auschwitz-Birkenau

When the train came to a halt at Birkenau the people ordered to leave the train heard more shouting, the frenzied barking of dogs. It might be the middle of a night lit with floodlights and the flames from chimneys. They assembled on the selection ramp and walked or were carried up to Mengele, or whoever was on duty at that time of day or night. The man would order the children and some of the adults, all the older adults, to go that way, to the right, to the gas chamber. The others were ordered to go this way, to the left, to work.

Separation of people: commuters and others

My poem: Commuters

On the station platforms a passing train

hammers Wagnerian anvils in the brain

and with a flame-like Whoosh! is gone,

swallowed by the setting sun.

They look across at others much the same -

patient, stoical, quiet, much the same.

They do not return the look.

They return to newspaper, timetable or book.

Patiently, each one stands or sits,

waiting for a stopping train, not the next delivery to Auschwitz.

Separation between past and present

Snakes exist now as in the past, storms take place now as in the past, but the beginning of a poem of mine claims:

There are no longer serpents or tempests,
no longer blackguards or ne'er-do-wells.

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." (The Go-Between - L P Hartley: 'The Go-Between.') Separation may be complete or incomplete. Separation between past and present is incomplete, past and present linked by memory and records.

Separation in vegetables and fruit

I first investigated a theme which can be applied so widely, applied to the unthinkable and the unbearable as well as to severely abstract matters such as the the demarcation between science and metaphysics, by considering an everyday matter, the characteristics of vegetables and fruits.

This is an incomplete list of the characteristics which a grower would consider when planting fruit and vegetables:

These characteristics show separation. A cultivar which has high yield may not have more than a mediocre taste (eg tomato cultivar 'Moneymaker' in the opinion of most commentators.) The characteristic high yield isn't linked with taste. Even when some of these characteristics are found together, they are unlinked. For example, the tomato cultivar 'Shirley' has generally high disease resistance and a high yield, but the the characteristics are separable.

Human characteristics and lack of versatility

As for the characteristics of vegetables and fruits, so for the characteristics of humans, except that separation isn't always found and linkage isn't absent quite so often.

Physical courage is separable from moral courage. This is another way of saying that courage has to be resolved. Courage isn't one thing, it has to be broken down. The humane sense which leads someone to adopt the vegan diet is separable from other aspects of the humane sense which the vegan may or may not possess - such as the humane feelings aroused by cruelty and injustice to humans. In other words, 'humane feelings' have to be resolved. Whatever the humane feelings of the vegan, these are separable from competence, which again is made up of many separable competences. These in turn are separable from the ability to be sarcastic where sarcasm is called for, or scepticism, where scepticism is called for ... but obviously, the separable characteristics form a very great number. In the page on eating, I criticize the vegan diet, and point out that a vegan may show very little awareness of all the other aspects of diet besides the one in which vegans tend to specialize: selected aspects of animal welfare. There seems to be a linkage between veganism and pacifism, the avoidance of violence, including the violence which can be justified, as in the case of a just war (the prime case being the war to defeat Hitler's regime, and as a result to end the selections at Birkenau.)

The fact that so many characteristics are separable, that they may very well not be linked, causes untold harm and difficulty. People with a particular strength as organizers may lack intuition and empathy, so that they alienate others. People with the boldness to start a new venture may shrink from some of the duties which are necessitated by the venture.

Untold harm and difficulty are caused too by the linkages between characteristics. People who are determined and stubborn, alienating other people who respect their determination but loathe their stubbornness, may find eventually that the loathing is stronger.

These are not new insights, of course. What is new is to apply the same organizing principle, the use of the theme {separation} to these important commonplaces of human nature and to other, at first sight completely dissimilar areas of experience, including:

Separation techniques in Chemistry

such as filtration, distillation and chromatography are homogeneous with (to use Kant's term in the Critique of Pure Reason), homoiolinked with (to use mine) the other instances of separation described here.

Thermodynamic separation

When a system is studied thermodynamically, there may be separation for the purposes of study between the system (eg an object at a higher temperature than its surroundings) and the rest of the universe.

{separation} and sphere of application

{Separation}, like other themes, has spheres of application. {/Framing} has {separation}. 'The Rhetoric of the Frame: Essays on the Boundaries of the Artwork,' edited by Paul Duro, is an indispensable account of framing, although flawed, like so many other academic treatments, by a complete failure to evaluate. It discusses amongst other things the physical frames surrounding paintings but also with what can be called 'purely conceptual framing.' From the essay in this book by Wolfgang Ernst 'Framing the Fragment' (Page 121): 'To frame is to set something apart and designate it for attention.' In my terminology, the sphere of application of {framing} has both material applications and purely conceptual applications. The theme is pre-ordered and the sphere of application is post-ordered. These matters, then, are within the sphere of application of {ordering}.

Separability and separation

My hope is that some practices which may seem embedded may be readily separable and may well achieve separation, and abolition. Such practices as bullfighting in Spain - as well as in the South of France and some Latin American countries. Is bullfighting inseparable from sun-baked landscapes, a more passionate way of living life than is common in England, linked with an appreciation of death as well as life, intensely lived? Not in the least, I hope. A spectacle which has no more justification for continuing today than the much worse spectacle of gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome - end it! Is capital punishment inseparable from the way of life of the American South, alien to chillier states such as Minnesota but rooted in hotter states such as Texas and Louisiana? The arguments against its use are equally applicable to all the states. Uproot it! End it! These traditions are not nearly as fixed and immutable as that. Destroy them!

Ending life and saving life

One object may have dramatically different functions, but this is simply one instance to be compared with less dramatic instances I explore in other areas of the site, such as the use of text and images for more than one function in Web design, or the use of boards and other objects in the design of gardening and horticultural equipment. A rope may be used to end life, when placed around the neck. My opposition to the death penalty in almost all but not quite all cases has made this use a matter of prolonged and painful study. A rope may be used to save life, when a climber falls. The rope used to be placed around the waist, although for a long time the rope has been attached to a climbing harness instead. (A waist placed around the waist could save a falling climber but would hamper respiration and eventually kill the climber.) Separation of functions here shows very marked contrast. The poem is completely ambiguous. There's no indication of whether a hanging or the saving of a climber's life is described:

His sudden fall
transfixed them all,
as if they had fallen too,
or might fall next
into the darkness
near at hand
pierced by his single call.
Into the darkness
led the rope
that broke his fall,
and held.
The rope: halting falling's double check,
tied around either waist or neck.

Resisting aggression

Karl Popper, 'Utopia and Violence' in 'Conjectures and Refutations:' '...we must not allow the distinction between attack and defence to become blurred. We must insist upon this distinction, and support and develop social institutions (national as well as international) whose function it is to discriminate between aggression and resistance to aggression.'

The demarcation between science and metaphysics

Chapter 11 of Karl Popper's 'Conjectures and Refutations' has exactly that title. He begins with a statement which is surely beyond reproach: 'The repeated attempts made by Rudolf Carnap to show that the demarcation between science and metaphysics coincides with that between sense and nonsense have failed...because metaphysics need not be meaningless even though it is not science.'

A redrawing of Popper's discussion would involve the replacement of 'demarcation' by 'separation.' 'Demarcation' is surely an instance of separation rather than a sub-theme of separation. ' The starting-point is the modification of Occam's razor I discuss in the section on causation. ' Linkages are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.' There is separation between science and metaphysics. Evidence and arguments are required to claim any linkages. Evidence and arguments can be adduced also to show that separation remains. This is what Popper does. He attempts to show that whereas scientific laws are testable and potentially falsifiable, metaphysical statements are not.


The notion of cause, which Hume questioned as part of his sceptical programme (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1, Part III, Sections II and III) can be questioned as part of a 'linkage and separation programme:' a reinterpretation or, as I call it, a redrawing.

Using my terminology (for event causation):

[event A] <causation (non-sceptical acceptance)> [event B]

(...) here are the 'citation brackets.'

This linkage is to be taken as exhibiting a sub-theme of {directionality}, event A being here the cause of event B.

Hume maintained

[event A] >necessary connection (Hume, Treatise) <[event B]

Hume did accept these linkages

[event A] <contiguous in space and time> [event B]

[event A] <prior to> [event B]

A further example of a schema which restates Hume comes from Book III, part I, section 1 of 'The Treatise of Human Nature,' illustrating the 'fact-value distinction:'

[ought] <deducible from> [is]

Mary Beard and areas of competence

Again and again, the fact that a person has demonstrable expertise in one area of competence, (1) in the schema below, is taken as giving greater credibility in an unrelated area of competence, (2) in the schema below. The claim that:
[competence (1)] <> [competence (2)]

So, the opinions of actors may be valued particularly highly when they talk about politics. Politicians who talk about culture may be regarded as having some sort of expertise in cultural matters. When Mary Beard made her comments in the London Review of Books about the destruction of the World Trade Center, she was arguing not so much as an ordinary individual but as someone with an established reputation - but in Classics, as an academic at Cambridge University. This was pointed out in a fine letter from Guy Deutscher of St John's College, Cambridge:

'What was wrong with your assorted 'reflections' on 11 September was not just the nonsense that some of your contributors produced, but the designer-label-intellectual culture that made you inflict them on your readers in the first place. Mary Beard writes wonderful reviews of books in her area of expertise. Why that should make her trite comments on recent political events worth publishing is anyone's guess. Is it her intimate knowledge of early Christianity ('full-blown martyrs are a rare commodity') that makes her an expert on the mass psychology of Islamic fundamentalists? Or is it that the third-rate clichés are worth printing because they have the brand-name of an 'intellectual' in the bottom-right corner? I cringed when reading her threepenny 'reflections', not because of their patronising insensitivity (one gets used to that when one lives in England), but because of their ignorance and stupidity. We should 'listen to what the "terrorists" have to say'? As it happens, what they say is 'Allahu Akbar.' [very well expressed]. Most embarrassing, however, is the thought that any of this sanctimonious garbage has been taken (for example by Marjorie Perloff) to represent what people think in Cambridge.'