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Vortex Philosophy


Wake, Charles Staniland 1907. Vortex Philosophy: Or, The Geometry Of Science Diagrammatically Illustrated. Chicago: C. S. Wake.

Some explanation should be given of the origin and form of the present work. In the year 1892, I was introduced to a gentleman, Mr. J. J. Van Nostrand, a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, whose bent of mind had led him to study the nature of "speculation." He was greatly interested in this subject, and after some years of inquiry and consideration there was formulated in his mind a system of philosophy, formulæ of which he published from time to time. In its latest form, it appears in 1903, under the title of "An Explanation of a Mechanical Philosophy," its illustrative diagram being headed "Sematology, a Natural Logic." (Wake 1907: 3)
More unacknowledged early Peirceanism? Sematology is the study of signs, just like semiotics, semiology, semasiology, semantology, and semantics.
It is difficult to say how far I have been indebted for the contents of these propositions to the writings of Spencer, Hegel and other philosophers. In my discussions with Mr. Van Nostrand, he covered pretty nearly the whole ground of philosophic speculation, and probably I am indebted, directly, more to him than to any single author. A certain similarity in matter, form and method between this work and his "Mechanical Philosophy" will thus be accounted for. But the two are quite independent, and so far as I can judge from personal explanations I have had the privilege of receiving from Mr. Van Nostrand, the system for which he is responsible belongs to a category of its own, dealing with the world of signs and being purely "logical," in the sense of being concerned only with thoughts and their verbal and other symbols as embodiments and expressions of troth; and being, therefore, so far as I can judge, supplementary to the systemization of physical and organic phenomena I have endeavored to make and to illustrate diagrammatically. Unless it may be regarded, in accordance with M. Ribot's views, as a representation of the organized knowledge of the subconscious factor of the mental constitution. (Wake 1907: 4-5)
Logic and semiotic are synonymous, as Peirce held.
Evolution, which is a general term implying a dual operation, is a process of constant "refination," a process by which things, in whole or part, are not only made smaller, but are made less gross or material. This is effected in the living organism by the breaking down of old material and its rebuilding with finer material. The smaller the particle the greater its vibration, or the smaller the wave the more rapid its undulatory motion. (Wake 1907: 7)
How does this compare to Clay's orderly concurrence of aptitudes?
taking the primal substance to have been ethereal, and assuming that only a portion of the substance was used in the formation of the elements, these probably took up or "occluded" in the course of their formation a certain proportion of free ether; which would thus not only form the basis of matter, but would also take an active part in the changes it would have to undergo through further segmentation and integration. In fact, all motory factors, such as the several "modes of motion," are combined with etheral activity, which is the real source and active agent in "evolution," as its material conjunct is the subject of the accompanying process of "involution." (Wake 1907: 7-8)
It's like finding out that the opposite of information, i.e. what gets occluded from formation, is exformation.
The living human organism and, therefore, every organism which has appeared from time to time in the process of terrestial evolution, is a seat of vortical activity. Vital action lies at the root of mental activity of all kinds, and this also must be regarded as vortical, the mind constituting a vortex on the psychical plane. This is equally true of the logical mind or faculty, to whose operation man owes his superiority over the animal world, all its processes being those of true vortex activity; the result in every stage of the process of evolution being the "refination" in which real progress consists. This refination has proceeded so far in mental operations that pure symbolism has taken the place of images as instruments of thought; supported, however, as pointed out by M. Ribot, by the "latent, potential, organized knowledge" of the subconscious. (Wake 1907: 8)
Fancy stuff.
The totality of nature is a vast vortex, each solar system within it being a sub-vortex; and everything in nature is vortical in operation, or partakes of vortical activity. (Wake 1907: 11)
Everything is either a system or an element within a system.
Diagrams I and II (see Frontispiece) represent the two complementary halves of a sphere of nebulous matter, the centers of the figures corresponding to the poles, which form the terminations of an axis passing through the center of the sphere; the figure in diagram I being the hemisphere in which energy, that is radiative differentiation (segmentation) is predominant, and the figure in diagram II the hemisphere in which force, that is concentrative intefration is predominant. (Wake 1907: 11)
Centripetal and -fugal.
An analogy subsists between the notes of the diatonic scale, which form a group or socius of musical tones (sound), and the color rays of the solar spectrum, which form, as a beam of light, a luminous socius; except that C, which is the opening note of the scale, answers to the invisible rays which exist between the red and the violet ends of the spectrum, and therefore should be represented by the mixed color gray. (Wake 1907: 14)
The etymology of socius is "companion" and "to follow", the analogy with notes makes sense. The space between the red and violet is The Grey Space.
Cubic Philosophy. The Cube is best figured for the present purpose by an isomeric projection, in which the three faces enclosed by the black lines represent the three visible sides of a cube, and the three faces enclosed by the dotted lines represent the three unseen sides of the cube; the projection may thus be regarded as a conmbination of two equal-sided figures. (Wake 1907: 16)
Likewise, the linguistic functions can be represented by a cubic projection with the three universal functions visible/distinct and the three particular metafunctions invisible/indistinct.
Although the six provinces of nature [elemental, physical, logical, physiological, psychological, and formal] form, as exhibited in diagram VIII, an organized whole, yet they may be arranged in two series of three provinces each, these being specially related among themselves, and the two series standing towards each other in much the same complementary relation as force and energy; each of which (as stated in Proposition 12) has a threefold manifestation, that is, as atomic, molecular and molar. (Wake 1907: 16)
Much like the three primary linguistic functions constitute an organic whole, and the para-linguistic [poetic], meta-linguistic [metalingual], and post-linguistic [phatic] functions constitute a series reflexive to the first (emotive/poetic; conative/phatic; referential/metalingual].
The relations between the several modes of motion are further exhibited in diagram XIII, which consists of four equilateral triangres, so arranged that the two center triangles form a parallelogram, of which the upper line is the line of atomicity, having teat at one extremity and chemism at the other extremity; and the lower line is the line of molecularity, having electricity at one extremity and the magnetism at the other extremity. (Wake 1907: 23)
Rööpkülik.
In the organic world the female is the special embodiment of the internal activity force, and the male is the special embodiment of the external activity energy. Hence, in the human species, woman represents the material form of the organism and man, as motory, represents its functional activity. But as matter and motion are inseparable, exhibiting themselves as force and energy throughout all the provinces of nature, both man and woman must embody both force and energy and therefore possess both male and female factors in some degree, although in man the former principle predominates and in woman the latter principle is dominant. (Wake 1907: 30-31)
That's a very eloquent way to express the sexist sentiment that women are and men do.
The psychical province, the representation of which forms part of the figure given in diagram VIII, is reproduced i diagram XV, consideration of the radiative factors in which shows that the chief psychical characteristic of man is doubt, the reality of which is investigation and its dynamic aspect discrimination; doubt being represented in the atomic field by pain, that is discomposition, whose dynamic aspect is difference, and in the molecular field by subjection, that is individuation, whose dynamic aspect is egoism. Woman, on the other hand, is characterized by belief, the reality of which is unity and its dynamic aspect assimilation; belief being represented in the atomic field by pleasure, that is association, the dynamic aspect of which is similarity, and in the molecular field by freedom, the reality of which is socialization and its dynamic aspect altruism. According to this summary, woman might be regarded as being more advanced psychically than man, socialization with altruistic harmony being the highest ethical aim of human life. But such is not the case; as man also reaches this ethical result and the more certainly than woman, seeing that his conclusions are arrived at as the outcome of intellectual investigation, and not through simple assimilation of what appeals to inclination, which is the usual source of woman's belief. Language as a method of organic expression belongs particularly to woman, but as an instrument of analysis belongs more especially to man.. The mental difference between man and woman is summed up in the fact, that while the former is essentially analytic in his mental action, induction being his chief distinctive logical faculty, the latter is essentially synthetic, her chief distinctive logical faculty being deduction; these being the opposing complementary expressions, in the ethical field, of the thought conception which man and woman possess in common. (Wake 1907: 32-33)
The saddest thing about all this is how much sense it all makes. Doubt → pain → discomposition → difference is reminiscent of Elaine Scarry's book. Subjection → individuation → egoism is a map to the formation of self-consciousness (sensu Mead). The most frightful series is of course pleasure (social pleasure and self-enhancement in phatic communion) → association (the bonds of union and ties of fellowship formed in phatic communion) → similarity (the outcome of phatic communion, i.e. communization). When Wake says that language is "a method of organic expression" for women, he is reflecting the neurological connection between the amygdala and speech areas in neurotypical women, and similar functionally asymmetrical inclination towards the motor cortex in men. The sexist theme in Wake's distinction between belief and doubt is women feel and men think. In this line of thinking, the "feminine" tends towards expression, beauty and relationships, and the "male" tends towards thinking, thinking about action, and acting.
The combination of the two sides of the woman's triangle reaching that of man shows, however, that she is capable under special conditions of attaining to mental equality with man; who sometimes, however, as shown by the extension of the sides of his triangle beyond the ordinary human plane, attains to special prominence. Similarly, on the lower organic planes, advance may, under special conditions, be made beyond the ordinary development of particulary races or individuals, a fact which is denoted in the diagram by the upward extension of the legs of the several triangles. (Wake 1907: 33)
I can't really make out what is said about the sexes in this sexist geometry: whether he means that women can be mentally equal with men and his diagrams go to show that sex, race and nationality are not significant to cognitive abilities, or that women can only rarely become mentally equal with men and and different groups have "evolved" varying degrees of intelligence. I really can't make it out, this English is as of yet too archaic for my full comprehension; reading these old books will hopefully improve my ability to understand late 19-th and early 20-th century discourse.
Gradually neuricity supersedes muscularity as the controlling organic factor, and functionally, therefore, man becomes creative rather than procreative, which is the chief function of animal life. (Wake 1907: 34)
Encapsulating the super-ideological overtone of MGTOW: while women are group-consensus oriented empathetic creatures who use language to connect with those around her, men are goal-oriented, active and outgoing, exploring, fighting, dying. In special conditions men can become hyperintelligent in ways not interesting or achievable to even most intelligent women. That real-world statistics support this rather sexist observation is indeed self-doubt-inducing.
Hence, refination, which is the mark of progress, is the first and last word in evolution. It depends, however, on the rhythmic operation of the principle of ratio, which finally exhibits itself as ratio-cination or logical reasoning. Evolution, thus, is refination, under the guidance of rationality, and its highest aspect is spirituality, which is the ethical outcome of human progress, exhibiting itself as altruistic freedom on the human plane and as religious aspiration on the cosmic plane. (Wake 1907: 23)
"Refination" is currently not in any online dictionary.
Mankind, coming last in the phenomenal procession of organic nature, takes the lead in the return to the primal source of power, in which the physical, organic and mental activities originated, and of which phenomenal nature is the projection. Here cosmic being realizes itself, finally becoming self-conscious through man and thus fulfilling the aim of evolution. Out of the formless, unconscious individuality of nature has been developed, perhaps through many eons of evolution, the formal, conscious personality to which the term "God" is applied; clothed with the etheral garment women throughout the ages by the experiences of all organic existences, and transformed by the mental, moral and spiritual activity of mankind, whose reason as the intelligence of radiative thought has become the concentrated intelligence of cosmic intuition. (Wake 1907: 34-35)
How does he know the goal of evolution? How does he know the mind of a cosmic being? I bet he thinks that's what he is.
(Tables A and B in Wake 1907)
These tables would be more useful if the accompanying discourse presented argumentation for such groupings, but I guess it's a puzzle to be solved. Only a minority of it makes sense to me at the moment.
(Diagram XVI in Wake 1907)
The final contribution of this book is something extremely valuable for my research in the history of phatics. Compared to the triangles of Ogden and Richards, and Bühler, this one is more complete in that it includes the gender-orientation I've only recently begun pondering. That the female synthetic force originates from the subliminal feeling (Esthetics), and the male analytic energy originates from subliminal will (Ethics). The real crux of the scheme is lower corner of the chombus, the subliminal origin of thoughts mediates between feeling and will. I would designate the lower quarter as Phatic, but this is because I cannot escape Jakobsonianism. For me, the left corner is Emotive, the right corner Conative, the upper corner Cognitive. While for Jakobson the Phatic function was sixth and rather irrelevant, for Malinowski and Richards it was Social. The implication of this scheme in this regard is that Thought (Psychics) originates from the Social (Phatic). There is ample discourse on this matter in the humanities and social sciences, especially in the sociologies of knowledge. In Jakobsonian light even the analytic and synthetic distinctions are sensible if you view Female (Force) Synthetic as the aesthetic function, originating from the crux of Social Feeling, and Male (Energy) Analytic as the metalingual function, originating from the crux of Social Ethics (i.e. mores, habits, cultural patterns and traditions, instructions; including technical language). These heretofore undesignated points on Wake's Diagram XVI basically amount to complement the Meadian triad hidden in the corners of the quarters. For example, the left corner of the general rhombus is the final self (the subject(ivity) itself, or La Barre's "hard-bitten but reality-taught conscious mind"), which acts as an arbiter between the immediate self (the self as expressed, or La Barre's social "person") and the dynamic self (the subliminal self, or La Barre's organic "person"). There is much to be written about Wake's diagram and how it can be meshed with other models.

cф 1880-1940


Spinning/Dancing
Waving/Drowning


The making of a shelf.

  1. Wake, C. Staniland 1907. Vortex Philosophy: Or, The Geometry Of Science Diagrammatically Illustrated. Chicago: C. S. Wake.
  2. Butler, Nicholas Murray 1911. Philosophy: A Lecture Delivered at Columbia University in the Series on Science, Philosophy, and Art. New York: The Columbia University Press.
  3. Carus, Paul 1902. Chinese Philosophy: Exposition of the Main Characteristic Features of Chinese Thought. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company.

last updated: 2016-07-16