McLuhan Bohm jigsaw pieces

Seemingly with no connection between each other, McLuhan and Bohm set out an astonishing number of parallel thoughts.1

These comparable thoughts may be taken to exemplify “the unintended parallelisms in methods” that Sigfried Giedion described in his introduction to the 1941 first edition of Space, Time & Architecture as “springing up” in the twentieth century between “the specialized sciences and the equally specialized arts”:

Unity, for us, will have to come about through the unintended parallelisms in methods that are springing up in the specialized sciences and the equally specialized arts. There are the indications that we are nearing a spontaneously established harmony of emotional and intellectual activities. In both contemporary science and contemporary art it is possible to detect elements of the general pattern which our culture will embody. The situation is a curious one: our culture is like an orchestra where the instruments lie ready tuned, but where every musician is cut off from his follows by a soundproof wall. It is impossible to foretell the events that will have to come before these barriers are broken down.

A number of questions ensue:

  • considered as similar pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, or puzzles, how do the individual pieces compare?2 how do they serve to augment or to modify or to clarify one another?
  • once one of these jigsaw pieces is put forward, is there a red thread which then leads an investigator on to others in the series?3
  • what pieces were taken by McLuhan on the one hand and Bohm on the other as particularly significant for putting the whole puzzle together?
  • how do the final ‘wholes’ compare?
  • what can be concluded from the repeated appearance of these pieces and their compound wholes throughout history?
  • how do these pieces and their compound wholes compare to other notions of the whole and their pieces?4 
  • how does this way of investigating compound wholes relate to the “comparative philosophy” of Paul Masson-Oursel5, Rupert Lodge (McLuhan’s first mentor) and others?


  1. A start on setting out these parallels has been made in posts on Bohm. Furthermore, many of these thoughts have recurred throughout the tradition in roughly similar form since the time of Plato and Aristotle (and arguably before them with the pre-Socratics). In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,  many have been highly elaborated in the work of Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. These comparable (not to say identical) further jigsaw pieces in philosophy must ultimately be examined with those of McLuhan and Bohm in the ways described in this post. In this context, see also the posts on Plato and on Riezler.
  2. As referenced in the preceding note, a start on this question in reference to Riezler and Bohm has been instituted elsewhere in this blog.
  3. Such a red thread might be considered as a kind of self-replication procedure belonging to the series itself. Or, in any case, as the activity of a kind of organic compound.
  4. This comparison of discrete ‘wholes’ — or galaxies — might be thought to be the question to which The Gutenberg Galaxy is an attempted answer.
  5. Paul Masson-Oursel published La philosophie comparée dedicated to his mentor, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, in 1923. It was translated into English in 1926 by F.G. Crookshank, who contributed an essay, along with one by Bronisław Malinowski, to Ogden and Richards’ The Meaning of Meaning (also from 1923).