If my essays are strings, then this string is a bit tangled. I'll try to make the flow of ideas clear in the following tl;dr: The recreation of sensuous experience, or virtuality, forms a significant part of our thinking, both concrete and abstract, and serves as a base for a phenomenological sense of physical self entirely separate from the consciously experienced physical self; this virtual self can serve both as a framework for describing feelings such as that of discontinuity (which feeling is explained below), and as a base camp for investigation of those parts of our phenomenology that are not normally present to consciousness, or deep phenomenology.

This is the first essay in a four part series:


The word "virtual" has several different overlapping meanings:

and in general usage points towards an intuition of unreal-ephemeral-model.

I've been playing with a notion of virtuality that has metastasized past the standard notion into something more broad and yet more specific, which can roughly be defined as the "imitation of sensory intuition". This meshes well with the simulated and abstract connotations of the word as it is commonly used, but, more importantly, covers the various notions of virtuality that I've been using recently. These are mostly explained in this essay.

Virtual Time

The first nontrivial example of virtuality is what I'm calling virtual time.

When something can undergo a series of stages, we invariably intuit these stages as occurring one after another in time. For instance, a dialectical argument will generally have several stages to it, and, even though the ideas being manipulated cannot be said to occur in time, we nevertheless place them one after another in a causal order. Another example: When thinking about some complicated mathematical structure which can be built up from several substructures, we almost always think of the raw object as coming first in time, and then the additional structures as being placed, one after another, onto that object. In intuition, a Riemannian manifold is a set with a topological structure and then a manifold structure and then a Riemannian metric. In "reality", all of these structures exist without reference to time (we cannot even say they exist "simultaneously", i.e. at the same time, because they do not exist in time at all).

So, instead of saying that these structures exist in time, we can say that they exist in virtual time, i.e. in our sensory intuition of time. Dialectical arguments exist in a progression, but this progression does not, a priori, have anything to do with the progression of time in particular. We cannot say that they exist in time, but we can say that they exist in virtual time.

(Relevant: I think Hegel's talk about the history of consciousness is really about the structuring in virtual time of a necessary development of frames. That the development should have a necessary determination, rather than a contingent one, means that it plays out in real time as well, but Hegel seems to be talking more about the abstract play of ideas).

Virtual Movement

The second example segues into some phenomenological investigations.

Warning: I am speaking of my experiences alone. Perhaps it's the case that these phenomenological... phenomena are unique to my mind, but I think it's the case that they're universal, and it's just rare to know the mental movements one has to make in order to be conscious of these phenomena which they always experience. Sort of a "get out of the car"-type scenario, where the mental contortions one has to make are extremely difficult to describe, and to actually perform given a description, not because the actions themselves are inherently difficult, but because it's entirely unclear what to do and what to focus on unless one has already done it, and our language doesn't have many words for these things. So, when I say "you", take it to mean "me". Anyway.