On Theoria, the persistence of vision, and the consummation of dialectic

In traditional analog television sets, the visual image is generated by a single point of light. The process is called “raster scanning.” The term comes from the Latin word for “rake” and refers to the linear pattern that the point traverses to travel across the screen. From a single scanning point, the raster scan on cathode ray tubes can produce the impression of a steady visual image despite that only one point is being illuminated at any given time. 

Due to “phosphor persistence,” a given frame lingers in consciousness such that the appearance of the next one encroaches contemporaneously on the experience of the former. The phenomenon is also known as the “persistence of vision,” or sometimes palinopsia. The latter, from the Greek palin, “again” and opsia, “seeing,” usually designates a pathological persistence or recurrence of a visual image after the initial stimulus for that image has been removed. Hence, the terms above describe non-pathological palinopsia. The duration of the lingering visual image following the removal of the stimulus can be defined as the “flicker fusion threshold” or “flicker fusion rate.” Below this duration, an intermittent stimulus will appear continuous as one stimulus “fuses” into the successive one. Animated motion picture relies on this phenomenon to generate the appearance of motion through successive still frames. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “beta movement.” In other words, a sufficiently high frame rate of still images yields the impression of a moving one.

A raster scan relies on the same phenomena regarding flicker fusion thresholds and persistence of vision as motion picture though in a slightly different application. As indicated above, the visual image is generated by a single point of illumination that races in a rake-like pattern across the analogy display. Despite that more than a single “pixel”* is never being drawn in any given time, by the time the whole screen has been traversed, the illumination of the initial pixel has not entirely faded. If its brightness has diminished beyond a given degree, this will be perceived as the familiar “flicker” of older television sets. 

Anyway, we perform a deed that is analogous to the raster scan when we engage in contemplation or in dialectic. As we think through diverse elements of a given topic or phenomenon, each new thought persists in intellectual vision for a certain, perhaps indeterminate, duration. The consummation of this diachronic traverse of pertinent elements of the topic or phenomenon is achieved at the point that we transcend the cognitive “flicker fusion rate” and the wholeness of the thing is made synchronically manifest to the eye of the mind. “Theoria,” it could be called.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

*The term is, strictly speaking, incorrect since an analog display does not contain specific spatial designations in the manner that a digital one does.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim Nadelle says:

    In the process of observing a thought sequence, we can concentrate the thinking by focusing in on its most discrete element, the single thought. For example, we can break down the idea “I am,” into its constituent parts, to begin with, “I”. In so doing, we discover how the narrowing of focus brings about an intensification, rather than a diminution of awareness. Now, if we add an additional concept, in this case, the “am”, the flicker fusion rate analogy holds good, as the “I” concept is sustained for a time in our awareness in the “am”.

    Investigating and experimenting further, we can discover that we have the capacity to sustain the flicker, transforming it into self-sustaining light, by perceiving how one concept influences the other. The “I” concept becomes active in a particular direction as it touches the “am” concept. The “am” concept draws out a singular aspect of the “I”. We can also reverse the process and perceive how “I” draws out and enlivens a particular aspect of “am”. In this way, both concepts arise in conscious experience, through the intensification of thinking into a perception of something real. Each concept reveals its Being and through their inter-relation we come to perceive the Being of the idea which springs to life through their union.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Brilliant! Your suggestion reminds me of the manner in which the interval that is established in time with a succeeding note retroactively evokes new dimension from the single tone that came before it.


  2. Wayne Fair says:

    Fascinating parallels/analogs between the technology and theoria – It made me wonder, in somewhat reverse order, what part the heuristics of intuitive imagination may have played in the research, development and creation of this technology itself? In other words, even (at the least) at an unconscious level, how the human experience of dialectic may have provided subtle hints as to how our own inner vision could be (in some far less subtle way) technologically materialized as raster scanning devices.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s