McLuhan’s probes depend for their insights upon recognition of overall patterns of interrelationship as the means for understanding. They are not linear or syllogistic explanations of the focus of inquiry but multifaceted explorations, analogous to the way that a cubist painting presents many sides of the object at once. Hence, they do not promote single points of view but invite many views simultaneously, while abandoning the smooth spatial continuities implied in vanishing-point perspective, or visual space, in favor of the sometimes jarring discontinuities of acoustic space. They forsake the exclusive dependence, characteristic of modern thinking, on efficient cause as a means of explaining phenomena, in favor of formal cause, which McLuhan equates with pattern recognition
According to his view, Mallarmé, Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Picasso, and the other great artists were creating insights into the modern world and its relationships with the past not by smoothing over transitions from one perception to another, or by providing perspective from a fixed point of view, or by creating a consistently-toned discourse (all mental habits fostered by print)—but by presenting the observer with fragmentary images of reality and forcing him to become a participant in the process of piecing them together in a pattern of significance. Hence, in order to make sense of the modern world, McLuhan himself would take a similar approach.
The fact that McLuhan developed, or intensified, these characteristics specifically as part of his point that traditional modes of learning were dead served only further to madden his detractors. One of these characteristics was the peculiarly gnomic nature of his pronouncements, formed specifically in imitation of the aphoristic style of Francis Bacon in probing the contours of any question, as distinguished from adopting a fixed point of view and proceeding linearly from there.