If William James were a cartoonist, he would be xkcd. He uses two bare intersecting lines to talk about the dual aspect of any situation indexed by a “now”. Here is a famous passage:
The puzzle of how the one identical room can be in two places is at bottom just the puzzle of how one identical point can be on two lines. It can, if it be situated at their intersection; and similarly, if the ‘pure experience’ of the room were a place of intersection of two processes, which connected it with different groups of associates respectively, it could be counted twice over, as belonging to either group, and spoken of loosely as existing in two places, although it would remain all the time a numerically single thing.
Well, the experience is a member of diverse processes that can be followed away from it along entirely different lines. The one self-identical thing has so many relations to the rest of experience that you can take it in disparate systems of association, and treat it as belonging with opposite contexts. In one of these contexts it is your ‘field of consciousness’; in another it is ‘the room in which you sit,’ and it enters both contexts in its wholeness, giving no pretext for being said to attach itself to consciousness by one of its parts or aspects, and to out reality by another (Does Consciousness Exist, 1904)
Bruno Latour employs a much denser brush in his notion of many “modes of existence“. Latour suggests that anything we wish to speak of, any speaking or agreeing that we do, we do at the intersection of many disparate strands, none of which can claim preeminence over the others. He rejects the simple dualism of subject and object, and reaches for a richer set, which he calls crossings. Crossings are just like the simple intersection of the lines in James’ story, though James stuck to the traditional pair of subject and object. Where James has two sparse unadorned lines, Latour has dense, high-dimensional entangled manifolds.
Of course there are no Cartesian subjects in either view, but when we look at the “now” in each of these, we find only a point, utterly lacking in dimension. At the single point of confluence the subject, or self, seems to vanish. It is utterly lacking in extent, and seems too slight to support a self, with a memory, personality, and feelings. As my friend Victor said: “A single point can not be grasped”.
Enter Descartes, revelling in his sceptical asceticism, denying his senses, trying to shut himself off from the world. But he cannot un-exist. He hears himself say “Je suis! J’existe!”, and for the short time the voice utters, it brings into being what we can visualize as a sphere around the single point. The sphere has extent. Viewed from one angle, it is the specious present. It permits narratives to be told, and the narratives determine the boundaries of the sphere. But now we have effected a split in the nature of things. We pretend the sphere is a point, and it is not. So the Cartesian self, this transient creation of the inner voice, enforces its signatory dualism. A transitory dualism that we spend all our efforts trying to make real in the sense of unchangeable.
Shoutout here to our Vedantic cousins, the Dvaita, Advaita and their lesser known cousin Achintya Bheda Abheda. I believe this stuff is old hat to them. They represent alternatives to Cartesianism, but especially in the latter case, they are rather more flexible, I think.