The interior ceiling of the Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan.


For art and science cannot exist except in minutely organized particulars.

Attributed to William Blake

Metaphysics are most perfect when concerned with universals; Poetry, when most concerned with particulars.

Attributed to Samuel Beckett

If particulars are to have meaning there must be universals.

Attributed to Plato

Particulars seem to make up our perceptual worlds, just as the tiles of the Loft-Allah Mosque make up its ceiling. But it is not the tiles we take notice of, rather it is the colours (universals) and the peacock’s tail pattern (the emergence of form) to which we attend. Particulars have a specific spatio-temporal location, whereas universals and patterns are not located. Poetry, art and science all depend on particulars, however, as Plato asserted, particulars on their own are meaningless - what is a tile without universals or patterns? When we try to define them we find that the abstract and the concrete chase one another like chicken and egg, so different in conception, so interdependent in function. And both vital in creating the objects with which we live.


Looking up inside the dome of the Shaikh Lotf-Allah Mosque in Isfahan. To get a sense of the scale, notice the lamp hanging down from the centre of the green medallion 200 feet (60 metres) above. The tiles are hand-sized. These quotes are all attributions, the original of which I have been unable to confirm, but their interlocking nature is too attractive to resist, so my apologies if any are erroneous.


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