Defining eversals

Two common words I use in a very precise, but unusual sense, are apprehension and surprise. What I mean by them is clearer when they are defined against their opposites.

I define apprehension against comprehension. Where comprehension provides a convex form around which one can cognitively grasp (com- “together” + -prehend “hold”) a concept (con- “together” + -cept “together”), apprehension defies grasp (ap- “toward” + -prehend “hold” despite the fact that cognition can feel the reality of what remains ungraspable. It is analogous to touching the inner surface of a concave surface with one’s fingertips, feeling for nonexistent edges around which one can secure a grip. Apprehending but not comprehending makes us aware of a boundary between comprehensibility and (as yet) incomprehensible reality, and this awareness induces apprehension, anxiety in the face of an inconceivable beyond. The relationship is that of eversion, of flipping inside out. Apprehension is everted comprehension.

I define surprise against comprise. When we comprehend something objectively the contents of the comprehension is all the beliefs the understanding comprises (and if you are a pragmatist, all the implications of these beliefs). (“-prise” and “-prehend” are both forms of the same Latin root, “-prehendere, “to hold”.) Surprise is that which is not comprehended which surrounds the comprehension with what was not grasped, due to its being beyond or over what is held, (sur- “beyond”/”over” + -prise “hold”), and which therefore is in a position to irrupt into what was comprehended and potentially to disrupt it. Here, also, is a relationship of eversion. It resembles the old “Russian reversal” joke: in Soviet Russia surprise comprises you.

Both of these words reflect a basic topological structure of my conceptions of subjectivity and objectivity. That is, they are eversions of one another. Every subjectivity comprises an objectivity derived from its interactions with its environing reality. But on the other side of these interactions, transcendent to its subjectivity and objectivity is a fellow subjectivity with an objectivity of its own which will both harmonize with and clash against the objectivity of other subjectivities. To make matters more complex, to the degree subjectivities manage to harmonize and share objectivity they form new, more expansive subjectivities. I participates within a transcendent We, without experiencing the kind of apprehension or surprise that signals transcendent otherness, radical alterity.

Without this subjective-objective topology, my ideas can only be partially comprehended — and largely only apprehended.

I think my next book will need to be another chapbook, I’ve been calling “the pearl book”. It might also be called Everso, every possible pun intended.

1 thought on “Defining eversals

  1. The more I think about com/ap/prehension and eversion, the more I think about interfaces. Interfaces comprehend and apprehend jointly: there is always something not grasped by the interface. Also, interfaces often manifest eversion, at least in the form of reflection: “male and female” connectors (RS232, USB, RJ11) are eversions of one another.

    The “interface” is neither one side of the connector or the other; it is neither the subject nor the object. The interface is where subject and object fuse in the interaction they enable.

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